1st confirmed case of COVID-19 associated with Hamilton school system

A staff member at the Umbrella Family and Child Centre before-and-after school program at Templemead Elementary School has tested positive for COVID-19 according to Hamilton Public Health.

A staff member at the Umbrella Family and Child Centre at Templemead Elementary School tested positive

Hamilton's first positive case of COVID-19 associated with the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board was confirmed by local public health officials on Thursday. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

A staff member at the Umbrella Family and Child Centre before-and-after school program at Templemead Elementary School has tested positive for COVID-19 according to Hamilton Public Health.

A release from the city says Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board and public health are contact tracing.

"Our priority is the health and safety of the children and staff in our before-and-after school program. We are working in partnership with the school board to ensure that we continue to follow all public health protocols and communicate information with families related to this confirmed COVID-19 case," reads a quote in the release from Darryl Hall, executive director of Umbrella Family and Child Care Centres of Hamilton.

Hall declined to comment further on the incident, but told CBC he would "share more information as it becomes available."

School principal Gregg Williamson also declined to comment when approached Friday morning on school grounds.

Public health isn't releasing personal information about the infected individual, but in a letter to families, HWDSB said the staff member was last in the building on Monday, Sept. 14. The positive test result was confirmed Thursday.

"Please continue to attend school and continue to screen daily for COVID-19 symptoms," reads the letter.

HWDSB adds that anyone who develops COVID-19 symptoms should stay home and use SafeArrival to inform the board about the reason for being absent.

"This will help HWDSB and Hamilton Public Health understand illness transmission in the community."

It's unclear how the person contracted COVID-19, when they contracted it and who may have been exposed.

The program on the East Mountain normally runs from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. It offers programs for kids between 18-months-old and 12-years-old.

Programming started on Sept. 14 according to the centre's website.

Public health says they will determine who needs to be self-isolate and the duration. The board takes care of cleaning and disinfection. It will also provide mental health supports to those who need it.

"We know that families will be concerned, but it is important to be aware of confirmed cases, the risk of illness and how we all can help reduce the spread of COVID-19. We are grateful to have Public Health as a partner as we face this challenge," HWDSB director Manny Figueiredo said in the release.

'It was inevitable,' custodian says

Kathy Bryers was the last custodian in the school on Thursday evening. She's also certain she was the one who cleaned the room where the infected staff member spent most of Monday. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Kathy Bryers left the building shortly after 10:30 p.m. on Thursday after cleaning and disinfecting the school.

She told CBC her shift started at 2 p.m. and at about 5 p.m., she was asked to do extra cleaning in an empty classroom, used by the program.

"That room I had to clean from top to bottom. It's pretty empty anyhow, so it was easy ... our focus is disinfecting," the 61-year-old custodian said.

"There were eight kids in there (before)."

Kathy Bryers said she feels confident she won't get sick and said the building has been cleaned and sanitized many times over — but being 61-year-old and having a sister with cancer, she has some worries. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

About two hours later, her phone started "blowing up with texts and phone calls" when news broke of the confirmed COVID-19 case.

"It's concerning, but it always was — that I hoped I didn't run into a case. It was inevitable, it was going to happen," she said.

Bryers is confident in her cleaning and her team's work, but with her age and her sister living with cancer, she has some worries.

"I'm not in direct contact ... and we've been wearing PPE anyhow, gloved, masked, everything, so I don't feel too bad. It's just the unknown."

Templemead Elementary School won't close because of the COVID-19 case, but anyone with symptoms is being told not to attend. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Jeff Odogba walked by the school for an evening walk. He returned home thinking about how he would tell his family about the news.

He has an 11-year-old sister who studies at Templemead. Odogba told CBC he doesn't want school to stop, but wants public health to take every precaution it can.

"I would say they have to shut the school down and test everyone to see who has COVID ... just for now, just to know. At least for 14 days," he said.

The Andrinopoulos family walked prayer circles around Templemead Elementary School in hopes it could stop any more COVID-19 cases in the building. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Tara Andrinopoulos and her family showed up on Thursday evening. Normally, the kids would be in bed, but after reading the news, they decided to do a prayer walk.

"For protection over our children, not just our children but many that go here, and our friends and neighbours, and just that it's one case and it's left at that," the mother of three explained.

She and her husband, Peter, spoke to their kids about the virus. Two of them attend Templemead.

"We sat them down and told them and we asked them how they felt and are they comfortable and if they want to go back," she said.

"We can't be too fearful, but we have to have wisdom."

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