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Fraser Health schools saw 2,000+ COVID-19 cases in six weeks – mostly students

Newly released information about COVID-19 cases and "clusters" in schools shows students account for 90% of cases and are the key drivers of virus transmission
Masked student in classroom
Students, not staff, represent the majority of COVID-19 cases in Fraser Health schools and primarily drive in-school transmission, previously unreleased data shows.

Schools in the Fraser Health region saw more than 2,000 cases of COVID-19 in the first six weeks of the school year – and it’s students, not staff, who are driving transmission.

That previously unreleased information came to light in a background report highlighting the public health data around COVID in schools. It was posted last night (Oct. 27) as part of the New Westminster school district’s rationale for deciding against a vaccine mandate for teachers and staff.

The report cites data collected between Sept. 7 and Oct. 14 in schools in Fraser Health, which covers the territory from Burnaby to Boston Bar (encompassing locations including New Westminster, Burnaby, Delta, the Tri-Cities, Surrey and the Fraser Valley).

There were 2,009 school-associated cases of COVID-19 in that time frame, of which 210 cases (10.5%) were staff. In the same time period, health officials identified 104 “clusters” in schools.

(The B.C. Centre for Disease Control defines a “cluster” as “ two or more cases that were reported within a 14-day period where transmission was likely within the school or where transmission in the classroom setting can not be ruled out.”)

Of those clusters, 22 (or 21%) involved staff; staff were the “index case” in 12 of those clusters (11.5% of the total).

“Key takeaway: students, rather than staff, are (the) majority of cases and primarily drive in-school transmission,” the report says.

A B.C. Centre for Disease Control school situation report released last week did not contain the data above.

That report noted only the number of notifications of potential “exposures” in schools, citing 1,388 such notifications across B.C. between Sept. 7 and Oct. 9 provincewide.

Given that Fraser Health is just one of five regional health authorities in the province, it’s clear that those notification numbers are a dramatic underrepresentation of the actual number of COVID cases in B.C. schools so far in 2021/22.

Follow Julie MacLellan on Twitter @juliemaclellan.
Email Julie, jmaclellan@newwestrecord.ca.