'Perspective' on COVID-19 at school: Out of 213 exposure events, only 1 outbreak so far, Henry says
A cleaned classroom is seen during a media tour of Hastings Elementary school in Vancouver, Wednesday, September 2, 2020. (Jonathan Hayward / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
VANCOUVER -- Speaking at a news conference where B.C.'s top doctor announced a second day of record-breaking daily case totals, Dr. Bonnie Henry said she'd provide perspective on the province's first outbreak at a school.
The outbreak was announced publicly via written statement on Wednesday at Ecole de l'Anse-au-sable in Kelowna.
The provincial health officer said it's not what anyone wants to see, but it's also not unexpected.
Public health teams had identified a transmission at the school, and so far five cases have been confirmed in the school community.
She said health officials identified which cohorts and others were involved in the outbreak, and those 160 people are self-isolating at home.
Henry said those associated with the school that have not been contacted by health officials should monitor themselves for any symptoms, but can continue to go to school.
There have been 213 "exposure events" at B.C.'s 2,000-plus schools since the start of the 2020-21 school year but, Henry said, there have only been six clusters identified where more than one person has been exposed to the disease.
And there were no outbreaks until the one announced this week.
When it comes to schools, the term "outbreak" is used when multiple people have lab-confirmed COVID-19 infections and transmission is likely widespread within a school.
"Exposure" is a term used when a single person known to have coronavirus attended school while they were infectious. A "cluster" means two or more people were at school while infectious. These cases may or may not be linked to school-based transmission, according to public health officials.
"I think that helps us put it in perspective that we are not seeing return to school causing amplification in our communities, but it does, as we've been expecting, reflect what is going on in our communities," Henry said.
Earlier this week, about 800 parents across B.C. said they planned to keep their children home one day as a protest aimed at the province's handling of COVID-19 in schools.
And last week, a B.C. Supreme Court judge dismissed an application by two parents who thought the province should have implemented tougher safety measures before kids went back in September.
Henry said Thursday the majority of exposures in schools have not led to transmission to anyone else, and that most have been in the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health regions, where B.C.'s largest populations – and largest number of schools – are located.
"While it's concerning that we have an outbreak, what I think is positive about this is that we have been monitoring all of the exposure events and we have had very little transmission in the schools, and public health has been working with the school community across the province to keep it that way," she said.