Nfld. & Labrador

COVID-19 testing in Gander to extend into Friday, as investigation into school-connected case continues

St. Paul's Intermediate suspended its classes again Thursday for what the school district says are "operational reasons" in the wake of a COVID-19 case connected to the school.
St. Paul's Intermediate School suspended classes on Wednesday and Thursday, citing operational reasons as staff get tested for COVID-19. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

St. Paul's Intermediate suspended its classes again Thursday for what the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District says are "operational reasons" in the wake of a COVID-19 case connected to the Gander school.

By early Thursday evening, it was not clear if the school would reopen Friday. 

The interruption is not due to any public health recommendation, stated a letter to parents from the NLESD tweeted out by St. Paul's Wednesday night. The letter promised an update Thursday to the situation.

St. Paul's first suspended classes on Wednesday, after a positive case was confirmed to be connected to the school community. A district official told CBC News so many staff members had been ordered to isolate while awaiting testing that the normal school day couldn't go ahead, although the building remained open with some staff working.

The region's medical officer of health, Dr. Monika Dutt, said there's no indication at the moment of wider transmission connected to the school as of Thursday morning.

In an emailed statement to CBC News on Thursday, a spokesperson for the NLESD said classes were suspended to allow public health officials to complete contact tracing and testing.

"We anticipate that will be completed today. We will update the school community as soon as we hear from public health," the statement read.

Central Health expanded its COVID-19 testing in Gander on Thursday at a temporary clinic set up at the Steele Community Centre. The health authority opened testing to anyone in Gander, with or without symptoms.

Early Thursday evening, the heath authority announced that would continue Friday during the same hours of 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and at the same location, with no appointments needed. 

'A little hard on the nerves'

The suspension of classes at St. Paul's while other schools in Gander remain open is causing anxiety for some parents, however.

Tricia Barnes kept her two children home from their classes at Gander Elementary on Thursday, and says she's nervous, because the town's four schools share busses.

"It's a little hard on the nerves, because not only that, we don't even know where the source is," she said. "It's difficult to know what to do with your children."

Barnes said she hasn't been leaving her home unless it's absolutely necessary, and has been ordering groceries online and having them delivered.

"Why would they expect me to send my children to school when I don't, myself, go out to the stores?"

She said she would like to see all the schools in Gander closed, even just for a few days, and with new case in central Newfoundland on Thursday, Barnes is considering keeping her children at home again on Friday.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Newfoundland Morning and Garrett Barry