Study finds schools no more at risk of COVID-19

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, June 22, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) – A study, funded by the Government of Canada as part of its COVID-19 Immunity Working Group (CITF), found that the risk of staff contracting SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in schools is no greater than their risk of contracting the virus in everyday life in the community. The results were published as pre-print before peer review.

Researchers at BC Children’s Hospital, University of British Columbia (UBC) and Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) examined COVID-19 infection among Vancouver school district staff during the year school 2020-2021. Researchers tested school staff for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies – a sign of previous infection – to determine how many had been infected with the virus, whether or not they had experienced symptoms. Of the 1,556 school staff who had their blood sample tested, 2.3 percent tested positive for antibodies. This percentage was similar to the number of infections in a comparison group of blood donors matched by age, sex and area of ​​residence. The results confirm the low prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infection among school staff.

“These results show that, with appropriate mitigation strategies in place, in-person schooling is not associated with a significantly increased risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission for classroom staff compared to members of the public.” general, ”explains Dr Pascal Lavoie. , study principal investigator, researcher at BC Children’s Hospital, pediatrician and associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics at UBC.

“Even when we factor in asymptomatic infections using sensitive blood tests, the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission in schools overall remains very low,” says Dr David Goldfarb, co-investigator and lead author of the article. Dr Goldfarb is a research scientist and medical microbiologist at BC Children’s Hospital and Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at UBC.

Of the 1,689 school staff interviewed, 278 reported close contact with a student or colleague who was a case of COVID-19, but only five staff members infected with SARS-CoV-2 believed they likely contracted the disease. virus in schools. Seven other staff members infected with SARS-CoV-2 reported close contact with a friend or family member as their primary source of contact.

“The results suggest that only a few teachers and school staff contracted SARS-CoV-2, and most assume that they did not contract it at school and thought they caught it from friends or family. family, ”adds Dr. Lavoie.

The study also reports positive viral polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests in students and staff – the number of people who have been tested and found to be infected with SARS-CoV-2 by the time they have been tested. In the Vancouver School District, 0.98% of the 47,280 students and 1.3% of the 7,071 staff attending the Vancouver School District were diagnosed with COVID-19 between the start of the pandemic and March 4 2021. In this study, school staff reported consistent rates of positive viral tests that are similar to those in the Vancouver School District – 1.3 percent.

“We hope our findings will help inform policies for opening and closing schools in the future,” said co-principal investigator Dr. Louise Mâsse, researcher at BC Children’s Hospital and professor at the School of Population. and Public Health from UBC.

“We know how important in-person schooling is to our students, not only for learning, but also for their social, mental and physical well-being,” said Suzanne Hoffman, School District Superintendent of Vancouver. . “These results reaffirm that with the protocols we have put in place, schools are safe places to teach and learn. “

“Our working group has funded three research projects on the risk of COVID-19 for school personnel and they are part of them,” says Dr. Mel Krajden, member of the CITF Leadership Group, professor of pathology and medicine at laboratory at UBC. “This study shows that COVID-19 in a school setting generally reflects the transmission of family and community contacts. As more Canadians are vaccinated, this is expected to further reduce family and community transmission of COVID-19. The results of this study are timely as provincial governments across the country plan and announce back-to-school scenarios for the next school year. This and the results of other working group studies will help guide an evidence-based return to in-person teaching. “

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The research team was led by Dr Lavoie and Dr Masse, and also includes Dr Goldfarb, Dr Vilte Barakauskas, Dr Julie Bettinger, Dr Tim Oberlander, Dr Mike Irvine and Dr Manish Sadarangani from BC Children’s Hospital and UBC, as well as Dr Daniel Coombs from the Department of Mathematics at UBC, Dr Eva Oberle and Dr Anne Gadermann from the School of Population and Public Health at UBC, Agatha Jassem from BC Center for Disease Control (BCCDC) and Dr Alex Choi of Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH).

British Columbia Children’s Hospital Research Institute conducts exploratory, translational and clinical research to benefit the health of children and their families. We are supported by the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation; are part of the BC Children’s Hospital and the Provincial Health Services Authority; and work closely with the University of British Columbia. For more information visit or follow us on Twitter @BCCHResearch.

Vancouver Coastal Health is responsible for delivering $ 4.1 billion in community, hospital and long-term care to over one million people in communities like Richmond, Vancouver, North Shore, Sunshine Coast, Sea-to-Sky Corridor, Powell River, Bella Bella and Bella Coola. VCH also provides specialized care and services to the people of British Columbia and is the province’s center for health education and research.

the Vancouver School District is a large urban and multicultural school district. It is committed to providing the highest quality learning experience for all students, helping them to reach their intellectual, social and physical potential in a safe and inclusive environment. The district is one of the most diverse public school systems in Canada with an annual enrollment of approximately 50,000 K-12 students. In addition, the district provides educational programs and services to adult education students.

the University of British Columbia is a global center for research and education, regularly ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world. Since 1915, the entrepreneurial spirit of UBC has embraced innovation and challenged the status quo. UBC encourages its students, staff and faculty to challenge convention, lead discovery, and explore new ways of learning. At UBC, bold thinking has the opportunity to grow into ideas that can change the world. To learn more, visit or follow us on Twitter @UBC.

British Columbia Children’s Hospital, a program of the Provincial Health Services Authority provides specialized care for the most seriously ill or injured children, adolescents and young adults in the province, including newborns. Child and Youth Mental Health offers a diverse range of specialized and unique tertiary mental health and addiction services for children, youth and young adults across the province. For more information visit or follow us on Twitter @BCChildrensHosp.

the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) plans, manages and evaluates select specialty and provincial health services across British Columbia, working with the five geographic health authorities to deliver province-wide solutions that improve the health of British Columbians. For more information visit or follow us on Twitter @PHSAofBC.

About the COVID-19 Immunity Working Group

The Government of Canada established the COVID-19 Immunity Working Group at the end of April 2020. The Working Group is overseen by a volunteer steering group that includes leading Canadian scientists and experts. plan of universities and healthcare institutions in Canada focusing on understanding immunity resulting from the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. To this end, CITF supports numerous studies to determine the extent of SARS-CoV-2 infection in Canada (in the general population as well as in specific communities and priority populations), understand the nature of the immunity after infection, develop improved antibody testing methods, and help monitor the efficacy and safety of vaccines as they are deployed across Canada. The working group and its secretariat work closely with a range of partners, including governments, public health agencies, institutions, health organizations, research teams and other working groups, and mobilize communities and stakeholders. More recently, the Working Group has been asked to support vaccine surveillance, efficacy, and safety as part of its overall goal of generating data and insights that inform interventions to slow – and ultimately stop – the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in Canada. For more information visit:

Media contact: Alan worsley
Manager, Research Communications
British Columbia Children’s Hospital,
Provincial Health Services Authority
Work: +1.604.875.2401 | [email protected]
Cell: +1.604.600.5341
PHSA media line: +1.778.867.7472

COVID-19 Immunity Working Group
[email protected]
Rebecca Burns
Cell: +1.438.871.8763
Caroline Phaneuf
Cell: +1.514.444.4532

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