Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry answers questions during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

B.C.’s top doctor says most COVID-19 exposures at schools have been low risk

Ministry of Health removes some symptoms for children, but there are still symptoms to test for

B.C.’s provincial health officer says most COVID-19 exposure events at schools have been low risk and there has not been any transmission within schools so far.

Dr. Bonnie Henry says a low-risk exposure could mean an infected person was at a school for a short period of time while wearing a mask or they didn’t have symptoms or close contact with others.

“Even if you are in a classroom with somebody who has COVID, if you’re sitting at a desk and you’re not close to them, you’ve not had close contact with them,” Henry said at a news conference on Monday.

Most of the school exposure events to date are related to cases in adults, she added, and mechanisms are in place to investigate and manage each individual case and exposure.

“Any time a child or a teacher or a staff person or a bus driver tests positive … those people who have contact where transmission could possibly have occurred are identified by public health. Most people are not in that situation,” she said.

Henry said it’s “probable” that B.C. will at some point see an outbreak at a school, which would be declared if transmission occurred between people in different classrooms or groups.

The province also decided to remove certain symptoms from the daily health checklist for schools and parents earlier this month, which Henry said public health officials recommended given the low probability that they would be a sign of a COVID-19 infection on their own.

“If you have a slight runny nose by itself then, that in and of itself is not a reason for a child, and we’re talking about children here, to necessarily stay home from school,” she said.

“It’s a balancing act to make sure that children are able to attend school as much as possible and minimizing the risk that they pose.”

In an email, the Ministry of Health said if someone has any of those symptoms in combination with symptoms that remain on the checklist, they should be tested for the illness. Some of the removed symptoms are common in children, so there were concerns that kids could be unnecessarily excluded from school, the email said.

The symptoms removed from school-related health checks are sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, muscle aches, conjunctivitis, dizziness or confusion, abdominal pain and skin rashes or discolouration of fingers or toes.

Symptoms that remain on the checklist are fever, chills, cough or a worsening chronic cough, shortness of breath, loss of the sense of smell or taste, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.

The narrower list is reflected in the province’s guidelines for kindergarten to Grade 12 schools updated on Sept. 11, which direct parents to assess their kids for certain symptoms every day before sending them to school.

The Fraser Health Authority’s website lists at least 25 exposures involving more than 10 schools in Surrey as of Sunday. There has also been one reported exposure at Delta Secondary School.

Fraser Health defines an exposure as “a single person with lab-confirmed COVID-19 infection who attended school during their infectious period.”

The Interior Health website lists a student case at an elementary school in Invermere and also at a high school in Castlegar, while Northern Health has reported two exposure events at Quesnel Junior Secondary School and Ecole Frank Ross Elementary.

The Vancouver Coastal Health and Island Health websites do not show any reported exposures.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Brenna Owen, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusEducation

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A fundraiser for the Falkland Community Church is underway. (Photo submitted)
COVID-19 leaves Falkland Church in a lurch

Annual event/major fundraiser cancelled for first time in 34 years

Advance polling saw nearly 10,000 votes cast in Vernon-Monashee. Pictured: Schubert Centre. (Jennifer Smith - Vernon Morning Star)
Almost 10,000 turn out to Vernon-Monashee advance polls

19 per cent of 52,479 registered voters have made their mark in B.C. election

Members of the Armstrong Lions Club have planted a red Canadian maple tree at Lions Park on Hunter Avenue as a show of tribute to their sister club in Banbridge, Northern Ireland. (Roger Knox - Morning Star)
Armstong Lions Club salutes sister club with tree

Red Canadian Maple planted in Lions Park pays tribute to Lions Club in Banbridge, Northern Ireland

The Community Foundation has teamed with the Canadian Mental Health Association and horse-assisted therapists to bring horse therapy to frontline worker battling the COVID-19 pandemic free of charge. (Contributed)
Okanagan organization says ‘thanks’ to COVID-19 frontline workers with complimentary horse therapy

Community Foundation teams with CMHA and equine therapists to offer unique mental health supports

COVID-19. (Courtesy of CDC).
Interior Health reports 12 additional COVID-19 cases

The total number of cases in the region is now at 644

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. (B.C. Government photo)
Kelowna Francophone school COVID-19 outbreak climbs to 5, mixture of students and staff

Health officer says situation evolving, spoke to possible closure, changes to provincial guidelines

Actor Ryan Reynolds surprised a Shuswap family with a special birthday message to their son who was worried he’d be alone on his 9th birthday on Nov. 24. (Tiffanie Trudell/Facebook)
Ryan Reynolds text almost gives away Shuswap boy’s birthday surprise

Deadpool actor helps remind eight-year-old Canoe resident he’s not alone

Colin James put on a great show at the Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds as part of the 2019 Vancouver Island MusicFest. But his Okanagan tour for 2020 has been postponed until 2021. (Photo by Terry Farrell)
COVID-19 cancels Corb Lund’s Vernon, Penticton, Trail, Cranbrook concerts

The Contenders, Colin James and Lund postponed until 2021

RCMP detachments across B.C. are now flying Pride flags. (Submitted photo)
Man who spent 4 days injured on floor rescued by Kamloops Mountie

The man is recovering in hospital after being rescued by a police officer conducting a well-being check

Vancouver police reactivated the search for Jordan Naterer Thursday Oct. 22. Photo courtesy of VPD.
Mom of missing Manning Park hiker believes her son is waiting to come home

‘He’s going to come out of a helicopter and say ‘what took you so long?”

Environment Minister George Heyman, Premier John Horgan and Energy Minister Michelle Mungall announce that B.C. Hydro is proceeding with construction of the Site C dam, Dec. 11, 2017. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
Site C actions, costs won’t be known until after B.C. election, Horgan says

Peace River diverted for construction of reinforced dam base

Five people with alleged ties to the Red Scorpion Gang are facing numerous charges. (Kelowna RCMP)
5 men linked to Red Scorpion gang charged with gun, drug offences in Kelowna

Police seized a machine gun as well as 5.5 kilograms of fentanyl and carfentanil

Most Read