Author of the article:
Sep 24, 2020 • • 3 minute read
Ottawa Public Health warns that students and staff are beginning to contract COVID-19 while at school and has declared outbreaks at five schools.
When the first cases of COVID-19 popped up at schools in early September, it was among people who had contracted the virus in the community and went to school not knowing they were sick.
“Over the last couple of weeks, OPH is starting to see that some students and staff are now getting sick from interactions at school,” said the agency in a statement. “These are situations when OPH declares an outbreak.”
Outbreaks have been declared at four schools: Franco Ouest Secondary and Monsignor Paul Baxter, Montfort and Gabrielle Roy elementary schools, and the private Lycée Claudel French school.
The designation does not mean the school must close, nor does it mean that a large number of people have COVID-19. When an outbreak was declared Sept. 18 at Monsignor Paul Baxter elementary in Barrhaven, where two students and two staff have tested positive, the school was closed for two weeks.
The other three schools with outbreaks remain open although some students have been sent home to isolate.
Whether a school remains open during an outbreak depends on how many groups of students are affected, said the statement from Ottawa Public Health.
Officials trace close contacts, which usually includes anyone in the same classroom as someone who has tested positive. Close contacts are usually sent home to self-isolate for 14 days.
“If there is sufficient evidence to indicate that there is risk of spread to additional cohorts, there may be a decision to close the entire school in order to stop transmission in the school,” said Public Health.
At Franco Ouest, where three students tested positive for COVID-19, parents were sent a letter from public health saying a “partial dismissal” of students at the school had been decided upon because the outbreak was “contained to a small group.”
“There is no evidence of widespread transmission within the school,” the letter said. The duration of the dismissal has not been established, but it could be two or more weeks, said the letter.
Public health officials notify students who need to isolate or be tested for COVID-19.
However, all students and staff at schools under outbreak should monitor themselves for symptoms and avoid going to “facilities where physical distancing cannot be maintained, in particular daycare centres, play groups, etc.” said the letter to parents. “Visiting older persons or those with chronic illness is also not recommended during this time.”
Article content continued
The French Catholic school board has not posted information about how many classes or other cohorts have been sent home at either Franco Ouest or Montfort elementary, which is also under outbreak. The provincial school reopening directive requires school boards to post that information on their websites. Staff at the the Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est have not responded to multiple queries from this newspaper over the last two weeks asking why the information has not been posted as required.
At Gabrielle Roy elementary, the other school where an outbreak has been declared, three students have tested positive for COVID-19 and two classes have been dismissed, according to information posted by the Conseil des écoles publiques de l’Est de l’Ontario on its website.
Meanwhile, the number of people with COVID-19 at Ottawa schools continues to inch up.
On Wednesday 12 new schools were identified as having people with COVID-19. That brings the total number of Ottawa schools with a case to 49, up from 37 schools on Tuesday.
New schools identified Wednesday by the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, with one case at each school, are: Ridgemont High School, Alta Vista Public School, Broadview Avenue PS, Glen Ogilvie PS and Manor Park PS.
At the Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est, new schools identified by the board are Alain-Fortin elementary and Samuel-Genest secondary, with one case each, and Franco Cité secondary, with “less than five” cases.
At the Ottawa Catholic School Board, new schools are St. Francis Xavier and St. Peter high schools, where one student at each school has tested positive; Assumption elementary, where two students have COVID-19; and St. John XXIII elementary, with one student testing positive.
At least 63 people associated with Ottawa schools have COVID-19 – in most cases it’s just one person at each school.
The total is difficult to determine because the French Catholic school board does not release exact numbers on its website, which lists schools as having “less than five” positive cases.
The specific school-by-school data appears on the province’s daily dashboard, but but there is often a lag of a day or more for it to be updated.