COVID-19 outbreak declared at Barrhaven elementary school, classes cancelled for 14 days
OTTAWA -- An Ottawa Catholic elementary school in Barrhaven will remain closed for 14 days after two staff members and two students tested positive for COVID-19.
Ottawa Public Health declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Monsignor Paul Baxter School on Beatrice Drive, saying there is concern of possible transmission of novel coronavirus throughout the school.
Public health says parents/guardians and teachers should prepare for the school to be closed for two or more weeks due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
This is the first school in Ottawa to close due a COVID-19 outbreak.
Fellowes High School in Pembroke was ordered closed by the Renfrew Country and District Health Unit on Wednesday due to cases of COVID-19. Four staff members and a student have tested positive for COVID-19.
In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, Ottawa Public Health explained why an outbreak was declared at the school.
"An outbreak is declared in a school once it has been determined that two individuals have tested positive for COVID-19 with an epidemiological link," said Ottawa Public Health (OPH) on Sunday.
"OPH has confirmed four COVID-19 positive individuals at Monsignor Paul Baxter Catholic School. A whole school dismissal has been instituted as OPH has determined there is concern of possible transmission of the virus in the school that is not localized in one class."
Ottawa Public Health is investigating the COVID-19 cases at Monsignor Paul Baxter Catholic School
"Although these cases are all in the primary panel, (Ottawa Public Health) sends all students and staff home to be cautious. Of course, we all want to do everything we can to help ensure our students' and staff's safety," said Mark Kennedy, principal of Monsignor Paul Baxter School in a letter to parents.
Kennedy asks all parents to sign children in to the Hapara workspace on Monday to find activities from their educators.
In a statement, the Ottawa Catholic School Board tells CTV News Ottawa that, "we are working closely with Ottawa Public Health and are following their direction and guidance."
"OPH has already notified close contacts and will provide further instructions, including how and when to get tested for COVID-19 and other actions to take."
The board says Ottawa Public Health has sent a letter via the school to all Monsignor Paul Baxter parents, guardians and school staff advising them of the positive test results.
Ottawa Public Health says it's reaching out to close contacts directly to provide direction on isolation and instruction on testing, including information on how and when to get tested for COVID-19.
"A reminder that only those who are experiencing new symptoms of COVID-19 or those who have been instructed by OHP should seek testing."
Ottawa Public Health says while the duration of the school closure has not be established, parents/guardians and staff should prepare for a closure of two or more weeks.
Public health is working with the school board and school to identify any gaps in infection prevention and control in the building.
Community to blame for COVID-19 cases in schools: Infectious disease specialist
With two schools in eastern Ontario now closed due to COVID-19 cases, an infectious disease specialist says the community as a whole is to blame.
"We don't have schools to blame for these outbreaks, we have ourselves in the community to blame," said Dr. Abdu Sharkawy in an interview with CTV News Ottawa Sunday afternoon.
"The school is simply mirroring what's going on outside of the schools. Schools have been closed for months and the fact that we're seeing outbreaks is a reflection of the fact that community transmission has been very poorly controlled."
Ottawa has seen at least 50 new cases of COVID-19 on five of the last seven days. Only 15 new cases of COVID-19 were reported on Sunday.
Dr. Sharkawy says it is important for testing to improve.
"If we had rapid testing available, for example, and people were able to proactively determine what’s going on within their own household before coming to school, whether you’re a teacher or a staff member or a student. You would probably prevent a lot of this from happening in the first place."