PoP BC Briefing #2 COVID-19, Kids, _ Schools in British Columbia

Want to keep track of our work? Sign up for PoP BC updates, actions, public health information, and announcements.

POP BC Briefing #2: COVID-19, Kids, and Schools in BC

Schools fill an important role in our society. They are where our children spend a lot of their day for 10 months of the year, learning and socializing with their peers. Most BC children are back to in-person learning this year. However, the COVID-19 context is daunting this school year. Case counts are consistently high in the community. The more transmissible and severe Delta variant is circulating, and children under 12 are not able to be vaccinated yet.

What does the science say about COVID-19, children, and schools? What measures can we use to make these congregate settings safer so that in-person learning can continue to happen without disruption from COVID-19? How can we ensure that school buildings are safe enough to be inclusive of all children, including ones from families that are more vulnerable to COVID-19 due to medical conditions?

Facilitator: Jennifer Heighton, teacher and education advocate, co-founder of Safe Schools Coalition BC


  • Dr. James Heilman, Emergency Physician
  • Dr. Lyne Filiatrault, Retired Emergency Physician
  • Michelle Naef, P.Eng, PhD candidate at the University of Alberta, in the David and Joan Lynch School of Engineering, Safety and Risk Management
  • Elizabete Costa, parent, member of Safe Schools Coalition BC
Get the slide deck

Highlights from this briefing

Doubly vaccinated mother and her unvaccinated school-aged son were both infected with COVID. 7 weeks later, they are still experiencing symptoms including fatigue, chest pain, loss of the sense of smell, and facial skin eruptions.
BC is not testing asymptomatic cases, even though science shows these represent the majority of COVID transmissions. Since the data is incomplete, we can’t know how many COVID cases are occurring in schools.
The government has not been forthcoming with data on outbreaks in BC schools. Two volunteer mothers have stepped up to fill the data gap.
Dr. James Heilman discusses the dramatic increase in cases in school aged children that occurred when BC reopened schools.
Long COVID can continue for months after an infection. Dr. Filliatrault urges BC to protect kids from a disease that is poorly understood.

Summary of Key Points

  • Children can catch COVID, with serious long term consequences.
  • BC Schools have significantly more exposure notifications compared to last year.
  • How we can keep children safe from COVID-19?

Children can catch COVID and there are serious consequences when that happens.

Children can catch and transmit COVID-19 and can experience severe outcomes including hospitalizations, ICU and death.  With the return to school in September 2021, there has been a significant increase in cases in elementary school children, especially grades K-3, who did not have a mask mandate. 

We have also seen an associated increase in cases in the age groups of parents of unvaccinated children.  Between September 5, 2021 and Oct 9, 2021 26% of the increase in the number of cases in BC was amongst children aged 0-19.  Children can also get Long Covid.  The long-term consequences and treatments for Long Covid are mostly unknown at this time.  In BC, we do not track Long Covid data.

 BC Schools have significantly more exposure notifications in 2021, compared to last year.

Between October 1st and 25th, the number of exposure notifications went from 203 in 2020 to 1379 in 2021.  Individual parents have taken it upon themselves to collect and report school exposure notifications.  Many of the exposures reported by parents have not been included in the official Health Authority exposure notification numbers, which suggests that we do not have a true representation of the total number of school exposures.

How we can keep children safe from COVID-19?

About half of children with COVID have no noticeable symptoms. Many cases go unrecognized in BC because we only test symptomatic cases.  Furthermore, many testing centres closed over the summer and didn’t reopen in the fall, despite the increase in cases, making it more difficult for families and their children to get tested. 

Data from the CDC in December 2020 showed that in places where effective measures to protect our children, such as consistent use of masks, testing, ventilation and air filtration, the risk remains low.  

In Ontario and Quebec, more layers of protection have been adopted, including CO2 monitors and High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters in every classroom. As a result, their number of cases didn’t increase as school reopened in the Fall.  Rapid testing for students is also available in most Canadian provinces, but not in BC. 

Existing school air systems can easily be optimized to ensure adequate ventilation and filtering. 

POP-BC supports the implementation of the following measures to keep our schools safe and protect our children from COVID and Long Covid:

  • Universal, high-quality masks
  • HEPA filters and enhanced ventilation
  • CO2 monitoring
  • Remote learning options
  • Regular testing of both symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals
  • Test / trace / isolate triad
  • Provincial school staff vaccination mandate

Share this:

Archived Briefings from Protect Our Province BC

Title image for briefing April 20 - COVID in the House: Protect Your Loved Ones
Wednesday, April 27th from 12:00-1:00 PDT What should you do if someone in your house tests positive for COVID-19? How do we prevent it from passing to loved ones in the household? Why should we care? Data is emerging that, due to variant mutations, COVID-19 reinfections are happening, even in highly-vaccinated countries. For that reason,… Continue reading COVID-19 in the House: How to Protect Your Loved Ones
Title image for Briefing 14 April 7, 2022 - COVID Doesn't Take Breaks, Neither Can We
Thursday, April 7 at 12:00 noon PDT Ignoring the 6th wave won’t stop it. What does the evidence say? Join Dr. Lyne Filiatrault, Dr. Brenda Hardie, and Gosia Gasperowicz, PhD, as they discuss what BC needs to do to lower community transmission as the most infectious strain of COVID ever becomes dominant across the globe.… Continue reading COVID-19 Doesn’t Take Breaks. Neither Can We.
Title image for Briefing 13: Ethics in Canada, March 23, 2022
Wednesday, March 23rd, 12:30-1:30 pm PT Join Canadian researcher and author Jon Parsons in a discussion with Protect our Province BC member Dr. Amy Tan about how Canada’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic amounts to a failure of ethical action.  The pandemic has brought issues with Canada’s governing systems and cultural identity into full view:… Continue reading Lack of Ethics: How Canada is Failing with COVID-19

More News from Protect Our Province BC

Post title - reinstate masks in public spaces
Protect Our Province BC, Safe Schools Coalition BC and BC School COVID Tracker are coming together to ask for mask protection in indoor public spaces, businesses, schools and on public transit in BC. The removal of BC’s mandated health protections has us concerned for the health and well-being of all British Columbians. “Now that masking… Continue reading Protect Our Province BC, Safe Schools Coalition BC and BC School COVID Tracker Issue Joint Press Release
translink masking open meeting title image
On March 11th, the British Columbia Public Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry lifted the indoor mask mandate for most public places, with the main exception being healthcare settings.  TransLink immediately followed suit and lifted its own mask requirement, leaving commuters on  buses and trains with very few COVID-19 precautions. Unlike BC, Ontario and Quebec have… Continue reading Transit Users Ask Translink to Keep Mask Protections in Place.
Title image for blog April 2 - N95 masks and transmission
Share this: April 2, 2022  A Guest Post by Tim Henthorne, B.A.Sc., P. Eng Over the past two years, we have been flooded with opinions regarding the wearing of masks, all while trying to learn how to deal with the existential threat of COVID-19. Unfortunately, much confusion has come from Public Health itself with its… Continue reading N95 Masks & the Transmission of COVID-19