What a virologist has to say about sending kids to school and asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19

By | August 28, 2020

WINNIPEG — With the number of cases going up in Manitoba, outbreaks declared at two personal care homes, and kids heading back to school, many questions are being asked around about the state of COVID-19 in the province.

CTV News Winnipeg sat down with virologist Jason Kindrachuk to find out the latest information on the disease.

BACK TO SCHOOL

In less than two weeks, students in Manitoba are set to head back to school.

Kindrachuk said everyone is waiting on bated breath to see what happens, but that it comes down to sticking to the fundamentals of physical distancing, proper hygiene, wearing a mask when distancing isn’t possible, or even just wearing a mask all the time.

“Essentially we know how to deal with this virus, we know how to do things right, we know how to keep the virus from transmitting, really it’s all about what public health officials are recommending,” he said.

As for whether students should stay away from their grandparents once they go back to school, Kindrachuk said not enough is known about transmission from kids to the elderly or those who are compromised to say definitively.

CLUSTERS

With Manitoba seeing more clusters of COVID-19 cases, Kindrachuk said vigilance is important right now.

He said there’s an indication that, to an extent, the virus is transmitting in extended communities, particularly in the Prairie Mountain Health Region, but that doesn’t mean the virus is out of other parts of the province.

“So if we give it that little bit of fuel, that spark, a little bit of air to spread, it’s going to.”

ASYMPTOMATIC AND PRE-SYMPTOMATIC CARRIERS

Kindrachuk said people commonly ask about asymptomatic versus pre-symptomatic carriers.

He noted Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the United States National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said it’s believed about 50 per cent of cases are linked to pre-symptomatic transmission.

Kindrachuk said this is “complicated at best.”

“Ultimately we have to keep in mind, that yes, we can transmit it without having any symptoms whatsoever, and if we become infected from pre-symptomatic transmission, we ourselves can be in that pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic phase,” he said, adding that people always have to keep in mind that they, or others, could be infected without displaying symptoms.

SECOND INFECTIONS

Recently there have been reports of people getting re-infected after already recovering from COVID-19.

Kindrachuk said this is a concern for researchers because they want to understand what’s behind the re-infection, noting that with all infectious diseases, there are outliers where people get re-infected for complicated reasons.

“This was not something that was not unanticipated, but we don’t know how common it is yet,” he said.

Kindrachuk said researchers are still collecting more information on the topic, but it doesn’t seem to be common.

THE LATEST INFO

As the pandemic has continued for several months now, Kindrachuk said researchers are understanding more about transmission, particularly how the bulk of cases seem to be related to super-spreader events.

“Where it’s one person that is essentially spreading the virus to a large number of persons,” he said, adding that researchers are still trying to understand these events.

When it comes to hope for a vaccine, Kindrachuk did say there are a few in Phase 3 trials.

“We’re in a better position than we’ve ever been in history to develop a vaccine in Canada with a pandemic.”

– With files from CTV’s Rachel Lagace.

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