There’s been a spike in school-related COVID-19 cases since classes resumed earlier this month, but Ontario’s top health official maintains transmission remains minimal. That as the Ministry of Education reported another 293 school-related cases on Monday.
There have been more than a thousand school-related cases reported in the last 14 days in Ontario, 874 involving students. The Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) has seen 24 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported in the last two weeks.
An outbreak was declared at Waterloo-Oxford DSS over the weekend. In a statement on its website, WRDSB noted that the outbreak was related to the Grade 11 class cohort only and was not a school-wide outbreak.
The board also noted that public health is treating every case of COVID-19 as a potential variant of concern. As such, WRDSB could only indicate that a positive case had been identified. It also mentioned regional public health will be conducting enhanced case and contact management for all cases of COVID-19.
“It’s not unexpected. We were seeing before school started an increase in the number of cases in the age groups that were less vaccinated and now that school has started when those cases occur in children who are students and adults who work in the educational system those are counted as school and staff cases. This is a reflection of continuing spread that’s occurring within the community, and we are seeing similar numbers across similar areas in Ontario,” said medical officer of health Dr. Hsiu-Li-Wang during the region’s weekly pandemic briefing September 17.
“Anytime parents see symptoms in their child to which they see concerns, they should consult a medical professional. People can use the Ontario self-screening to test if they should be tested or self-isolated,” added Wang.
Officials also reminded local parents to keep children home if the they are feeling unwell or experiencing symptoms, and to get vaccinated if they haven’t already. Children born in 2009 and later are eligible to get vaccinated.
“Our goal is to keep schools open, and we do have protocols in place for schools to minimize the potential for transmission when there are cases in students and staff who may have been in the environment. Those protocols have worked in the past,” said Wang. “We’re continuing with a number of those layered measures while also providing some more opportunity for students to have a normal school year in terms of activities that they can participate in. I would say at this time what is happening in schools reflect the low to moderate spread that we are continuing to see in our community at this time.”
The board released a statement September 15 disclosing that it had put in place immunization policies for all publicly funded school board employees as well as regular visitors to schools in the region for the rest of the school year. All school board employees who are not fully vaccinated will be required to participate in regular testing.