B.C. schools will remain open due to low infection rates

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said due to a ‘relatively low infection rate amongst school-age children,’ schools will remain open.

While many schools across the country are keeping their doors closed to students, Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, announced schools in the province will remain open.

In a school exposure update on Thursday, Henry said due to a “relatively low infection rate amongst school-age children,” schools will not be shut down. 

“We recognize how important school is for families, communities and children,” Henry stated. 

Summary data focused on the two largest school districts in the province showed that approximately one in 200 children require hospitalization from contracting COVID-19, showing that there is still a low infection rate among students, particularly between the ages of five to 12, she said.

Their research found that students returning back to school from spring break saw a significant increase in exposure of young people across the province, but the numbers “leveled off” once students returned back to school, she explained.

“Most of the cases in the school setting were acquired outside of the school and there was little transmission within the school itself,” she said. “In structured school environments, rates of transmission are much less.”

COVID-19 cases in schools reflect community transmission, Henry explained, and when transmission does occur in school, it is usually limited to one or two additional cases. 

“I know there’s a lot of talk about closing schools, but we’re not seeing that as an issue,” Henry said. “It is absolutely clear that every exposure event is disruptive and concerning.”

Henry said the provincial government has been working with the schools to ensure that the pandemic safety plans are being followed to reduce the risk of outbreak.

She explained school staff will continue to be prioritized for vaccinations over the next few weeks, starting with the highest community transmission areas.

Henry announced 1,205 new cases of COVID-19 in the latest reporting period, including 38 in the Island Health region. 

Meanwhile, unlike B.C. and Alberta, amid Canada’s third wave, school districts in Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan have closed. 

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