Saskatchewan

Parents say COVID-19 reporting could be improved after case in Saskatoon daycare

Parents of children at a Saskatoon child care centre say the government's process for notifying after a positive COVID-19 case needs to be clearer.

Parents say government guidance on reporting a positive case 'vague'

A positive COVID-19 case has been found the Felix le chat daycare on Albert Avenue in Saskatoon. The daycare was closed on Friday. (Omayra Issa/CBC)

Parents of children at a Saskatoon child care centre where someone was diagnosed with COVID-19 say the government's notification process needs to be clearer.

The case was identified in someone at the Félix-le-Chat child-care centre, which is connected to the École canadienne-française - Pavillon Monique-Rousseau on Albert Avenue in Saskatoon.

Erin O'Connor has twins in the child care centre and one child in École canadienne-française. The child-care centre informed her by phone Wednesday night about the case.

On Thursday, the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) informed her by phone that one of her sons would have to self-isolate, but that her other son did not need to because he had not been in direct contact with the positive case.

O'Connor said the larger school community did not find out about the case officially until an email went out Thursday.

The school has remained open, but the child care centre was closed on Friday.

O'Connor said the child care centre and the school did "the best they can" under the guidance provided by the province.

"They are having to piece things together on the fly because they haven't had any real guidance," she said. "I think that the government has mismanaged everything since the very beginning of this pandemic."

O'Connor said the exposure happened on Sept. 4 and that one of her sons will have to isolate for two weeks.

"[The daycare] probably should have alerted all of the families in the child care centre right away and possibly all of the families in the school as well," O'Connor said.

Another parent with a child in the daycare centre said the communication process from the government could be improved.

"I was anxious and I was worried, but the daycare has done a very good job and they have worked very hard to isolate all the different groups of children," said Naomi Piggot-Suchan.

She said she was reassured by the email that informed her of the case. It said her son's group was not the one with the positive case.

"I've been very very pleased by the work of the daycare to keep my children safe."

Piggot-Suchan said the daycare followed the provincial guidelines on notification, but that the process is not as clear as it could be.

"I find the provincial notifications are vague at best, so I would hope that in subsequent cases the wider community would be notified sooner at the same time the primary contacts were notified."

Aaron Genest, who has a child in the elementary school, said he first learned about the case via Facebook. Genest said the school did what it could to inform parents.

"How does it make me feel? Frustrated. But honestly, I think it has far more to do with the guidance the school has been receiving from SHA than it does from anything that's happening at the school."

Genest said his child's teacher helped relieve stress.

"She gave us quite a bit of information with what the school was doing and the risk level to our child, so our child is in school today."

Genest said he would like to know if siblings of children who are self-isolating are themselves isolating or being told to. He said that would give him "much more confidence."

Provincial reporting of cases in schools

On Thursday, the government restated what would constitute an outbreak declaration in a school setting:

"If two or more people test positive for COVID-19, and are all linked to a specific school setting within a specified time period, an outbreak is declared for that school.  The declaration of an outbreak does not automatically result in school closure or indicate a risk to others," it said.

"Like outbreaks in acute care, long-term care or business settings, an outbreak declaration may be triggered by a low number of cases and is used by public health to mobilize and coordinate a response to the infection."

The government said it will post such declarations online.

On Aug. 27, the province laid out the reporting process for an individual positive case in a school:

  • If a child, teacher or staff members tests positive for COVID-19, public health will provide assistance and begin the contact tracing process immediately. Anyone living in the same home would be considered a close contact.
  • Teachers, staff and parents/caregivers of students who are considered to be close contacts of a person with COVID-19 will be contacted directly by public health via the contact tracing process.
  • All teachers, staff and parents/caregivers of students in the same classroom (cohort) of a person with COVID-19 will be contacted directly by public health and by their school via email.
  • Those teachers, staff and parents/caregivers of students in the same cohort who are considered to be non-close contacts will be advised to self-monitor for symptoms and be offered priority testing options.
  • Public Health will then advise on further actions that may be required. A positive case in the cohort (classroom) may not present a high risk to the entire cohort.
  • Further steps could include requirements for the cohort (classroom) to self-isolate at home.
  • Teachers, staff and parents/caregivers of students in the school population, but outside of the same cohort, can also seek public health advice regarding self-monitoring for symptoms, transmission risk and access to priority testing options at any time.

On Tuesday, Education Minister Gord Wyant said cases in schools are "not uninevitable." 

Dr. Saqib Shahab, the province's chief medical health officer, has said a school that has an outbreak wouldn't necessarily have to shut down.

Shahab said alternatives to shutting down schools would include an emphasis on washing hands, using hand sanitizers or using personal protective equipment.

About the Author

Adam Hunter

Journalist

Adam Hunter is the provincial affairs reporter at CBC Saskatchewan, based in Regina. He has been with CBC for 13 years. He hosts the CBC podcast On the Ledge. Follow him on Twitter @AHiddyCBC. Contact him: adam.hunter@cbc.ca

with files from Gregory Wilson and Thomas Gagne

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