B.C.'s top doctor says she doesn't foresee another full shutdown of the school system

B.C.’s top doctor says she doesn’t foresee a situation where the school system would need to close down, as it did in March.

“That would mean that we were in dire straits in many other aspects of our community, and that’s what we’re trying to absolutely avoid,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry during Thursday’s COVID-19 media briefing. 

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However, there may be scenarios where groups of people will need to self-isolate or individual schools will need to close, she said, but that will depend on health officials’ investigation into the case.

“The scenario that I could see happening would be if there was multiple exposures or transmission between adults in a school setting, and there wasn’t sufficient staff left to safely operate the school,” said Henry.

“We’ve seen that happen with influenza outbreaks, we’ve seen that happen in other parts of the world where schools have reopened, where teachers are getting together…where they can transmit the virus between each other.”

If a teacher or a student were sick with the virus, there would be an investigation to see who they had contact with, to determine if it was the type of exposure that could lead to transmission.

Henry said there will be cases that pop up, as has been the case in other provinces where schools have reopened – for example, in Alberta and Quebec. 

“We know that there’s likely both adults and children, right now, because we have transmission in our community, who may have the virus and may develop the symptoms and become sick when they’re attending school, or at home before they go into school.”

That’s why it’s important the screening measures are in place, and why everyone needs to check themselves for symptoms prior to entering the school, she said.

Local health officials will also work with each school, so that each school community is aware that there may be a case in their school.

In some cases, that may mean only the individual who is ill is required to stay home, while in other cases – if the case investigation determines there was possible exposure – some of the learning group may need to quarantine for a period of time.

While students or staff may contract COVID-19 during the school year, an outbreak will only be declared at a school when there’s transmission of the virus between people in the school setting, she said.

Health officials will then report that information to the public.

“That’s what we will be focusing our measures on, making sure we prevent those (outbreaks) from happening,” said Henry.

Schools in B.C. reopened to in-person learning Sept. 10.

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