SURREY – Data released as part of a Fraser Health review of COVID-19 in Surrey schools shows limited transmission of the virus in school environments, even when variants of concern are present. Vaccination and safety measures have helped keep schools safe for staff and students.
In this review, Fraser Health’s Public Health team examined 2,935 of 3,287 cases of COVID-19 reported between January and June, 2021. Overall, 90 per cent of school-associated COVID-19 cases in Surrey originated in households or the community, not in schools.
The new review follows an analysis released earlier this year by Fraser Health that looked at COVID-19 cases among school-aged children and school staff from January 1 to March 7, 2021, to better understand the extent and nature of in-school transmission of the virus.
The new review found that, between January and June 2021, staff accounted for 11 per cent of the cases and students 89 per cent, which is expected as students make up the majority of the school population. Approximately three per cent of the overall school population in Surrey was reported to have COVID-19 during the study period.
“Our review show schools are safe for students, teachers and staff. Of the small minority of the school population that did get COVID-19, most of them acquired it at home or in the community and had limited spread within schools,” says Dr. Ariella Zbar, medical health officer, Fraser Health.
Trends in school cases tend to match those in the community. Cases increased in late February and peaked in mid-to-late April. School-associated COVID-19 cases among ages 18 and over decreased with the availability of vaccine.
“We know vaccination and other safety measures play a major role in stopping the spread of COVID-19 in our communities and schools. Once staff immunization campaigns started, there was a noticeable drop in cases among those 18 and older. Student cases declined as cases fell in the community, largely reflecting increasing vaccination coverage over time,” says Dr. Zbar.
Variants of concern were more common after spring break, but did not impact the size of clusters in schools. A cluster is defined as two or more cases within a 14 day period at a given school. The Delta variant was not yet prevalent in the community during the review period, but will be monitored by Fraser Health Public Health as school resumes in September.
The information garnered from the review will help to guide public health measures in the Fraser Health region for the upcoming school year. The best protection against COVID-19 is vaccination. To protect students and school staff, it’s important for eligible people in the Fraser Health region to get fully vaccinated against COVID-19.