Sudbury

Biostatistician says school transmission a big concern as COVID-19 cases climb in Sudbury

A biostatistician based in Sudbury says people should be keeping a close eye on COVID-19 cases in schools, as overall case counts rise in the area. 

'If we see cases in the youth, it will enter homes, it will enter other places,' says Ryan Imgrund

Ryan Imgrund is a biostatistician who has been closely following COVID-19 numbers and is working with several public health units. (Submitted by Ryan Imgrund)

A biostatistician based in Sudbury says people should be keeping a close eye on COVID-19 cases in schools, as overall case counts rise in the area. 

As of Friday, there were 212 active COVID-19 cases in the Sudbury area, and the health unit was reporting nine active outbreaks. Those outbreaks include the Sudbury Jail, Memorial Park, long term care and retirement homes, and several workplaces.

But Ryan Imgrund said he's "most concerned about" the two active outbreaks in schools. 

"If we see cases in the youth, it will enter homes, it will enter other places from that. That's really the vector that is connecting one household to the next."

As of last Thursday, Public Health Sudbury and Districts said there were six confirmed cases connected with the two school outbreaks. But Imgrund said there are likely many more, undetected cases. That's because students are less likely to be vaccinated, since those under 12 are not yet eligible, and are also more likely to be asymptomatic, or have mild symptoms. 

Stopping the spread 

Last week medical officer of health Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, said that Sudbury has become a "COVID-19 hotspot." 

Imgrund said a big contributing factor seems to be the outbreak at the Sudbury Jail, which as of Thursday accounted for 59 cases. He said it's important not to think of the jail as being "isolated" from the rest of the community.

"We have to act as if cases in there are able to spread into the community through the people serving weekend sentences, and then also people who work in the jail as well," Imgrund said. 

When it comes to detecting more of that community spread, Imgrund welcomed the province's announcement last week that it will be providing take home COVID-19 test kits to publicly funded schools starting this month. 

"That's what's going to pick up these asymptomatic cases, that's what's going to pick up these pre-symptomatic cases as well. And from what we know about COVID-19, it is most dominantly spread in the pre or asymptomatic stage."

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