Study to probe level of COVID-19 transmission in Vancouver schools

Researchers in British Columbia are hoping to get a better understanding of just how much COVID-19 transmission is actually happening in schools.

“A lot of what we know is based on I would say anecdotal data,” said Dr. Pascal Lavoie of BC Children’s Hospital who is leading a new study into COVID-19 transmission in Vancouver classrooms.

“We don’t have large scale data to measure that exposure. We need objective data to measure this, and that’s what hopefully this study will provide.”

Lavoie’s team has partnered with UBC, Vancouver Coastal Health and the Vancouver School District and is hoping to sign up more about 3,000 school staff to participate.

Read more: Vancouver Coastal Health says COVID-19 transmission in schools is low

Those staff will give a blood sample for a serology test to see if they’ve been exposed to COVID-19 at some point in the past.

Nearly 2,500 of the staff will be educators that work with children, while a control group of 500 will be workers who don’t interact with kids.

Click to play video 'Another case of COVID-19 variant detected at Surrey school' 4:22 Another case of COVID-19 variant detected at Surrey school

Another case of COVID-19 variant detected at Surrey school

“We’re hoping to compare these two groups to understand how much exposure is coming from within the school setting,” Lavoie said.

The results will be supplemented by testing of school-aged children by public health officials.

Public health officials have maintained that schools are a low-risk setting, and that despite numerous COVID-19 exposure events transmission remains rare.

In January, Vancouver Coastal Health released data from Sept. 10 to Dec. 18, which showed no transmission in 90 per cent of exposures in a school setting.

Read more: Fraser Health warns of more exposures of COVID-19 variants of concern at schools

The recent arrival of COVID-19 variants of concern in a number of Lower Mainland schools, however, has heightened anxiety among parents and teachers.

Lavoie said he’s hoping the study can turn results around quickly to address those concerns.

“We are hoping to get this information in the next couple of weeks so we can act really fast on whatever action needs to be taken,” he said.

“This information, before everything else, is going to provide information to understand what’s happening.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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