There are nearly 300 people self-isolating in the Simcoe-Muskoka region after “high risk exposure” to a school-related case.
Dr. Charles Gardner, the medical officer of health for Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, said health unit staff worked hard to follow up with 11 confirmed school-related cases at 10 schools in the region to catch anyone who was exposed before they returned to school the next day.
“It’s getting tougher. These are large numbers of contacts for us to follow-up on,” said Gardner, noting staff are still reaching close contacts of cases within 24 hours of the health unit being notified of a positive test result. “If we’re falling behind with that, we would have to let the public know.”
Though he is aware of people who choose to excuse their children from schools where a COVID case has been identified, he noted those directly exposed to the case will hear from the health unit.
“We reach people who are high-risk contacts and do so efficiently,” said Gardner. “If you have been exposed, we will contact you.”
Those who have been identified and contacted by the health unit due to high-risk exposure must self-isolate for 14 days regardless of a negative COVID test result.
The doctor said the school-related cases have so far been sporadic and there is no evidence of transmission occurring at any schools.
The region is seeing a “rapid rise” of cases according to Gardner, who noted there have been 176 cases confirmed in September. During the highest peak for the region, the health unit reported 190 cases for the month of May.
The health unit has confirmed 44 new cases since Thursday, Sept. 24.
“There’s no doubt of the correlation between the number of cases that end up in school and the number in our community,” said Gardner. “If we had less in our community, there would be less showing up in schools.”
The doctor noted it is important to continue screening school children before sending them to school for the day and to seek testing for any symptom that is not related to a previously-diagnosed condition such as allergies.
Yes, he said, a runny nose would warrant a COVID test.
“It is meant to be inclusive and protective,” said Gardner. “By not including nasal congestion … you have the potential to miss some cases.”
For more on COVID screening and school protocol, the health unit has posted information and links on its website.
There are have been five cases of COVID-19 confirmed at Simcoe County District School Board schools, including Goodfellow Public School (Innisfil), Worsley Elementary (Wasaga Beach), Admiral Collingwood Elementary, Bear Creek Secondary (Barrie), and Twin Lakes Secondary School (Orillia).
Classrooms have been closed at Goodfellow, Worsley, Admiral and Bear Creek.
There are five confirmed school-related cases within Simcoe Muskoka District Catholic School Board facilities, and there are six classrooms closed. The schools include St. Paul's Catholic School (Alliston), St. John Vianney Catholic School (Barrie), St. Angela Merici Catholic School (Bradford), Sister Catherine Donnelly Catholic School (Barrie), and Father F.X. O'Reilly Catholic School (Tottenham).