There were 1,123 cases of COVID-19 detected within K-12 students and school staff in the Interior Health region in the first five weeks of the school year.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Tuesday 28% of those cases, 314, were linked to 80 coronavirus clusters across the region.
The clusters, defined as two or more cases, impacted 46 schools in the IH region between Sept. 7 and Oct. 12. That means a COVID-19 cluster was detected in 12 per cent of all schools in the B.C. Interior in that time frame.
The data was released in a report detailing the virus’s spread within the B.C. school system this fall.
Across B.C., case counts within students and school staff initially surged during the first two to three weeks of the school year, but have since declined.
Henry said this trend was most pronounced in the Interior Health and Northern Health region where community spread was widespread at the end of August.
“Now that's taking a downturn,” Henry said.
COVID-19 cases in the school-age population make up a “very small proportion of overall cases” in Interior Health, says the BCCDC, “they generally follow community trends and reflect community COVID-19 activity."
The data shows cases started to decline prior to the mask mandate being expanded to include K-3 students.
“Masks can provide an added layer of protection against COVID-19 transmission; however, it is difficult to assess the impact of mask wearing among younger grades. There are many factors that contribute to the risk of COVID-19 infection, including rates in the community, vaccination coverage, and contact with others through social networks,” the BCCDC report explains.
Henry noted that there have been “very few” school-aged children admitted to the hospital with COVID-19. In the past week, there have been five new hospital admissions in the 0-4 age, one in the 5-11 age group and one in the 12-17 age group. No children were admitted to the ICU in the past week.
Henry pointed to the lower likelihood of negative outcomes associated with a child catching COVID-19 as the reason why B.C. is not considering any type of vaccine mandate for school children.
Citing federal data, the BCCDC says there were 451 adverse events following immunization with COVID-19 vaccines (e.g., tingling or prickling, vaccination site pain, headache) reported among 12-17 year olds as of October 1, 2021.
That represents 12 reports per 100,000 doses administered, meaning the 12-17 age group experienced the lowest number and rate of reported adverse vaccine events of any age group. The majority of those adverse events were not serious.
The data shows among 12-17 year-olds, unvaccinated individuals are 24 times more likely to acquire COVID-19 when compared to their two-dose vaccinated counterparts.