11 people now COVID-positive in Kelowna school outbreak
VANCOUVER -- Eleven people connected to an outbreak at a Kelowna school have now tested positive for COVID-19, health officials said Friday.
When the outbreak was first announced on Thursday, there were only three confirmed cases at Ecole de l'Anse-au-sable, with 160 other people being told to self-isolate and monitor for symptoms.
"While it is obviously not what any of us want to see, it is not unexpected as we know that COVID-19 is still circulating in our communities," provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said at a Thursday briefing. "And we know that is reflected in what is happening in our school communities as well."
There have been 213 exposure events at B.C. public schools so far, with six of them considered clusters because more than one person has been exposed.
The cases at Ecole de l'Anse-au-sable make up the first declared outbreak at a school in the province.
The news comes the same week researchers at SFU announced the results of a new study where they crunched numbers from school outbreaks in a number of jurisdictions around the world.
According to the researchers, their results show frequent rapid testing of students can curb outbreaks before they begin.
"One thing we considered is, what if you did pool testing of all the children every three days, and then you had a very fast way of detecting whether someone in the classroom had COVID-19," said SFU mathematics professor Paul Tupper.
That's probably not a feasible option in B.C. right now.
According to Dr. Henry, more than 600,000 students attend schools in the province, along with 35,000 teachers.
Since the pandemic began, 757,000 COVID-19 tests have been conducted province-wide.
The plan laid out by Tupper calls for twice that many tests every week, something he acknowledges may not be logistically or economically possible.
But he does say the results of the study could apply to other settings, such as workplaces.
"Yes, absolutely any work place where people have to go to work together, it would be valuable," Tupper said.
Private industry, with the resources to pay for frequent, rapid testing, may find the study useful -- but students and teachers in B.C. will have to continue to socially distance, self-monitor, and stay home when sick to prevent further COVID-19 outbreaks in schools.