There have been dozens of COVID-19 exposure events at B.C. schools since they reopened last month, but new modelling suggests sending kids back to class hasn't caused a spike in community transmission.
The latest data presented by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Monday indicates that school-aged children still make up less than 10 per cent of COVID-19 cases in B.C., as they did earlier in the pandemic.
"That has been consistent in the three to four weeks since schools have reopened," Henry said.
"We have seen an increase (in cases), but it has levelled off and it's not been a large increase at this time."
Many parents were worried when the province sent some 500,000 students, teachers and educational staff back to school last month, and the climbing number of "exposure events" on school grounds hasn't helped to ease those concerns.
Henry said there have been 64 such exposures so far, including 14 since Thursday, but stressed that the reopening of schools hasn't been a major factor in the spread of COVID-19 in the province.
"Some students, educators and staff have tested positive for COVID-19," she said. "What we're not seeing is schools amplifying transmission in the community."
Henry said many school exposures have been "related to exposure events that happened outside the school setting," and that officials have adapted their strategy to try and catch these cases earlier.
It also remains true that very few young people who catch COVID-19 in B.C. require hospitalization. Less than one per cent of cases under the age of 20 need to be hospitalized, and no one in that age group has had to spend time in an intensive care unit as a result of the disease.
At this point in the pandemic, no B.C. resident under the age of 20 has died either.
The data also shows testing of school-aged children has gone up dramatically. Students between five and 12 are being tested four times as often as they were at the start of the school year, and students between the ages of 13 and 18 are being tested twice as much.
But only seven in 1,000 tests involving school-aged children have come back positive. Henry suggested that means many students who are symptomatic simply have "cold viruses and regular things that we see this time of year that can cause coughs and colds and runny noses and fevers."
"Some of these can be transmitted much more easily than COVID," she added.
Officials said 60 per cent of students tested for COVID-19 now receive the spit-and-gargle test, while the rest are given the less-comfortable nasopharyngeal test that involves pushing a swab up the patient's nose.