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

Michelle Stoney carved this pumpkin on Wednesday, Oct. 28 at her brother's home where their family gathers each year to carve pumpkins for Halloween. (Michelle Stoney, Gitxsan Artist Facebook photo)
Gitxsan artist carves culture in Halloween pumpkin

Michelle Stoney spent more than three hours on her latest holiday creation

A grizzly that was spotted near Newens Road in Smithers has been captured, tagged and relocated. (photo from Facebook)
Dohler Flats grizzly relocated by Smithers COs

The four-year-old male was relocated a couple of hours south of Houston

Northern Health saw 14 cases in one day earlier this week, the highest in one day since the beginning of the pandemic. (Image courtesy CDC)
Northern Health sees highest number of COVID-19 cases in one day

Oct. 27 saw 14 cases reported, the biggest single-day total since the beginning of the pandemic

Over the years, Janice Blackie-Goodine’s home in Summerland has featured elaborate Halloween displays and decorations each October. (File photo)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about Halloween?

Oct. 31 is a night of frights. How much do you know about Halloween customs and traditions?

FILE - In this Jan. 23, 1987 file photo, actor Sean Connery holds a rose in his hand as he talks about his new movie “The Name of the Rose” at a news conference in London. Scottish actor Sean Connery, considered by many to have been the best James Bond, has died aged 90, according to an announcement from his family. (AP Photo/Gerald Penny, File)
Actor Sean Connery, the ‘original’ James Bond, dies at 90

Oscar-winner was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2000

This house at 414 Royal Ave. became notorious for its residents’ and visitors’ penchant for attracting police. It was also the site of a gruesome torture in August 2018. It was demolished in 2019. KTW
6-year sentence for Kamloops man who helped carve ‘rat’ into flesh of fellow gang member

Ricky Dennis was one of three men involved in the August 2018 attack

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Cpl. Nathan Berze, media officer for the Mission RCMP, giving an update on the investigation at 11:30 a.m., Oct. 30. Patrick Penner photo.
VIDEO: Prisoner convicted of first-degree murder still at large from Mission Institution

When 10 p.m. count was conducted, staff discovered Roderick Muchikekwanape had disappeared

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Among the pumpkin carvings created this year by Rick Chong of Abbotsford is this tribute to fallen officer Cont. Allan Young.
Abbotsford pumpkin carver’s creations include fallen police officer

Rick Chong carves and displays 30 pumpkins every year

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
$62K raised in 1 day for boy in coma at BC Children’s after being hit by vehicle in Yukon

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

Health care employees take extensive precautions when working with people infected or suspected of having COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
WorkSafeBC disallows majority of COVID-19 job injury claims

Health care, social services employees filing the most claims

Most Read