OTTAWA -- Students have returned to a Cornwall, Ont. school that was closed Monday due to COVID-19, following contact tracing efforts by the local health unit.

Eastern Ontario medical officer of health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis told CTV Morning Live on Tuesday that about half of the students at Viscount Alexander Public School have returned to class.

The decision to close the school was made out of an abundance of caution, he said.

"This was a unique case where we had one individual who was positive and a couple of other probable cases and we found this out over the weekend, so we didn’t have time to assess all the classes," he said. "We needed a bit of extra time so we, in discussion with the school board, said let's close the school for one day to identify which are high risk and which are not, and so on."

In a statement School Superintendent Chad Brownlee said the school was cleaned on Monday and staff reviewed protocols around personal protective equipment.

"Our school underwent a heightened cleaning, in addition to reviewing health and safety protocols and the use of PPE with staff. When students arrived this morning, staff met students at their buses to ensure that only those who had been cleared to come back were in attendance," Brownlee said. "This is all in addition to our regular routines of maintaining cohorts, masking, hand sanitizing, daily active screening, and social distancing when possible. We are happy that we were able to welcome many students back today, and are looking forward to continuing with in-person learning."

The Upper Canada District School Board said in a release Sunday night that the school would be closed for at least a week.

"Viscount Alexander Public School has been closed by the Eastern Ontario Health Unit until at least Sept. 20 as a means to limit further exposures and spread within the school and community," the UCDSB said.

Roumeliotis said the individual who had tested positive contracted the virus outside the school.

"I want to stress that there was no outbreak in the school. There was one case, a couple of probable contact cases, and we did the precautions and now half the school is back today and we're monitoring the rest of the school based on testing and isolation and so on," he said.

The UCDSB said Sunday night that four other schools in the school board had positive cases but remain open:

  • Pleasant Corners Public School (Vankleek Hill)
  • St. Lawrence Secondary School (Cornwall)
  • South Edwardsburg Public School (Johnstown)
  • Vankleek Collegiate Institute (Vankleek Hill)

"The Eastern Ontario Health Unit and the Leeds, Grenville & Lanark Health Unit have done assessments to determine those within the schools who may have had a high-risk exposure, and are actively communicating with those people," the board said. "Both the health units and the schools are taking all necessary steps to prevent further spread of the virus in the schools and communities."

Viscount Alexander was the first public school in Ontario to close because of COVID-19 this school year.

The first day of the school year in the UCDSB was Sept. 7.

Roumeliotis says that a majority of cases in schools are acquired outside the school setting but brought into the school later. He added that children in homes where the adults are not vaccinated are even more at risk.

"About 30 per cent of our cases in August were four-to-18-year-olds and that's before school started. Many of the cases in the schools were contracted a couple days before school started," he said. "I could tell you that 92 per cent of all our cases are unvaccinated and most of them occur in clusters in homes."