Sign outside of B.C. classroom amid ongoing pandemic. (The Canadian Press)

COVID testing up for youth but B.C.’s top doctor says in-classroom transmission low

No youth or children have died due to the virus, and hospitalizations are less than one per cent.

There have been 50 coronavirus school exposures in B.C.’s 1,942 schools since early September, with many of those infections being contracted prior to school starting, according to provincial health data.

On Monday (Oct. 5), provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry shared the latest epidemiological data for the province amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This marks the first month to include school-related transmission rates since the coronavirus hit the province back in January.

According to Henry, testing rates have increased two-to-four-fold for youth aged 13-18 and 5-12, respectively. That includes about six in every 10 tests using the new, less invasive spit and gargle test which was rolled out last month.

The results: most students experiencing symptoms similar to those connected to COVID-19 – which when mild can appear similar to common colds – don’t actually have the coronavirus. Roughly seven of every 1,000 tests come back positive. Provincially, youth make up less than 10 per cent of all confirmed COVID cases.

No youth or children have died due to the virus, and hospitalizations are less than one per cent.

“What we are not seeing is schools amplifying transmission immunity,” Henry explained, adding that officials will be “monitoring closely” now that the first two-week incubation period has passed, meaning that new infections would be more directly linked to inside classrooms.

There have been growing concerns among parents and the union representing B.C. teachers over a gap in information on school-related exposures.

As it stands, each health authority is responsible for working with school districts to notify parents and guardians of exposures through contact tracing, as well as post lists of exposure events on the BC CDC website.

Henry reassured parents Monday, stating that a previous “communication glitch” which led some regions not posting exposures has since been solved.

“… the public health teams on the ground are working with every school and every school community. Every parent who needs to know has that information and what we post publicly is every single exposure event.”

However, those details fall short of some particulars, such as the number of test-positive cases as a result of the exposure – sparking growing concerns being voiced by the BC Teachers’ Federation president Teri Mooring.

More than half of B.C. teachers believe COVID-19 health and safety measures in schools are “inadequate,” according to a recent poll.

READ MORE: A day before school starts, B.C. teachers’ union still worried over lack of remote learning

@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

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