B.C. has so far not seen increased rates of COVID transmission in children – but it will continue to keep an eye on the situation as the new school year approaches.
That was the message from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry under questioning from reporters at a briefing on Thursday, Aug. 5.
About 99% of all positive cases tested in B.C. are now variants of concern, according to B.C. Centre for Disease Control data this week.
Henry said the province is seeing large numbers of the Delta variant, which accounts for 61% of cases, and the Gamma variant, at 28%.
Rising numbers of Delta variant cases have been raising questions over the potential effect on children under 12 – who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated against the virus.
So far, Henry said, the B.C. situation has not shown a jump in cases involving children.
“What we are not seeing is increased rates of transmission in young children, and children under 12 in particular,” she said. “We’ve not seen very many cases in that age group.”
Henry acknowledged some other countries have seen an increase in case numbers in younger children but said that has not been the situation in B.C. so far.
“We are watching that. As we go into the fall, of course, we will be watching that as well,” she said.
“We have a lot of experience about this virus in school settings, for example, so obviously we will be watching what happens in the next few weeks and the importance, of course, of everybody who’s able to be immunized in those settings to be immunized.
“Now’s the time to do that so that people are fully vaccinated as we move into the school season in September.”
B.C.'s back-to-school plans have not yet been unveiled, but in the spring, the province was predicting a “near normal” return to school come this fall.
In June, Henry and Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside said health officials would continue to monitor the progress of the pandemic before making decisions about the school year.
“We don’t yet know how badly it’s going to cause outbreaks or clusters or spread in our community this next fall,” Henry said at the time.
Whiteside said the “rapid response teams” that include both health authority and school district staff would continue their work into the fall so they could continue to monitor the situation “on the ground” and adapt accordingly.