After three North Vancouver schools were hit with COVID-19 clusters earlier this fall, cases of the virus appear to have leveled off in North Shore schools.
“We did see some challenges at both Capilano and at Upper Lynn. But thankfully, things are settling down a little bit,” said North Vancouver school district superintendent Mark Pearmain this week.
Pearmain said school COVID cases in general continue to reflect the infection levels in the community.
“We know that as long as there's going to be COVID-19 cases in our community, we should expect to see them in our schools,” he told trustees on Tuesday.
The most recent local school COVID-19 exposures have been at Ecole Andre-Piolat school in North Vancouver, which falls under the French school authority for the province.
Five children in a Grade 3/4 class and at least two of their parents tested positive for the virus following an exposure Oct. 12-15.There have also been cases among students in a Grade 6 class at the school.
Prior to that, a number of students in two Grade 3 classes and one kindergarten class – and possibly other classes – at Upper Lynn Elementary in North Vancouver tested positive, following exposures Sept. 28, Oct. 4-5 and Oct. 7-8.
The worst case so far was at Capilano Elementary where five classes had exposures and parents reported multiple cases among both students and family members. That led two classes to go into self-isolation and a third to switch to online learning for a period of time.
West Vancouver has only reported one school exposure, at Ecole Pauline Johnson, in September.
Pearmain hinted this week that cases in students are in some instances being contracted outside of school.
“It happens at events like soccer games, and birthday parties, and carpooling and dinner parties,” he said.
Vaccination rates are high on the North Shore. Among 12-17 year olds in North and West Vancouver, between 84 and 89 per cent are fully vaccinated. So far, there have not been any exposure notices issued for high schools on the North Shore.
Canada has still not yet approved vaccines for children under 12, although that is expected soon. There are about 500,000 children under 12 in the province.
In early October, Pfizer submitted initial trial data for the use of its COVID-19 vaccine in children aged 5-11 to Health Canada. Registration is currently open for parents to register children aged 5-11, who may soon become eligible for vaccination.
Pearmain said so far there has been no discussion about vaccinating children under 12 through schools in North Vancouver.
He said the school district will support Vancouver Coastal Health in vaccinating those who want shots for their kids but will respect the decisions of parents who don’t want their children vaccinated.
In a report on COVID-19 among kids and teens this week, Dr. Bonnie Henry, the province’s medical health officer, said while there was a dramatic increase in the case rate among younger children earlier this fall, that has now dropped off again.
According to B.C.’s Centre for Disease Control, during the first five weeks of school there were 1,388 school exposures linked to 510 in schools. COVID-19 case rates among children and teens peaked in the last week of September, according to the BC CDC.
Among 5-17 year-olds in B.C., there have been 94 hospitalizations, 10 critical care admissions, and no deaths from COVID between January of 2020 and Oct. 12, 2021.