Hamilton

This St. Catharines woman says her entire family got COVID-19 from school

A St. Catharines woman said her family is still reeling after they got infected with COVID-19 in the first week of school.

Area school board says 95.4% of teachers and 91% of education workers are fully vaccinated

Haley Bateman said her entire family got sick form COVID-19 and wants Niagara's public school board to do more to ensure kids aren't being taught by unvaccinated teachers. (Submitted by Haley Bateman)

A week into the school year, Haley Bateman, her partner and their three kids all had COVID-19.

The St. Catharines woman said her children's symptoms included vomiting, body aches, explosive diarrhea, fever of 103.9 F and hallucinations.

"We were not sleeping, checking on our kids every hour, rotating rooms to make sure they're all OK," she said.

"We were very close to going to the hospital ... it was very terrifying."

A few weeks later and Bateman said her family is still reeling from the virus, with her kids at home, struggling to sleep and now falling behind in class.

"We're four weeks into school and they've had a total of eight days at school," she said.

Concerns about unvaccinated school staff

The District School Board of Niagara (DSBN) did not confirm the source of the outbreak at Oakridge Public School, where Bateman's children attend. Spokesperson Kim Sweeney said in an email the outbreak led to three cases and closed four classrooms.

Bateman said she worries it may have been due to an unvaccinated worker at the school and said the board isn't doing enough to ensure staff are getting vaccinated and informing the school of their vaccination status. She also wants the school board to stop unvaccinated educators from entering the building.

Sweeney said all DSBN teachers and education workers have declared their vaccination status and of those that have, 95.4 per cent and 91 per cent are vaccinated respectively.

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Sweeney said the DSBN director of education spoke with Bateman about her concerns.

"Clear and regular communication to students, staff, and families has been essential during the pandemic so we can all work together to keep our schools safe," she said in an email. 

"When COVID-19 cases or class closures occur at schools, information the school community needs is shared directly from the school. The principal is available to answer questions and talk to parents."

More than half of Hamilton outbreaks are in schools

Nearby, Hamilton's public and Catholic school boards say on their websites that, of the staff and trustees who have declared their vaccination status, 91.5 per cent and 83.3 per cent were double vaccinated, respectively.

The public board has 301 staff that haven't disclosed their status as of Sept. 29 and the Catholic board has 432 as of Sept. 15.

Local schools currently account for 14 of the city's 21 active COVID-19 outbreaks. There have also been 214 cases among Hamilton elementary and high school students and staff since Sept. 4.

In comparison, December 2020 had 176 cases and February had 98 cases in the public and Catholic school boards.

Hamilton's medical officer of health, Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, said during a Monday media briefing schools are places where not everyone, namely children under 12, can get vaccinated and people who attend them are indoors for a long time.

Still, schools need to stay open, she said.

"What we expected is that we would see outbreaks ... because they absolutely reflect what's going on in the community," Richardson explained.

"Most of these outbreaks do tend to be small because we've got pretty good vaccination rates."

She also said based on the current outbreaks, there aren't any extra precautions needed.

"This is a setting where we want to keep a close eye and do as much as we can to limit transmission because we need these kids in school."

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