How Windsor-Essex handled its 1st case of COVID-19 at an elementary school

About 20 students at Stella Maris Catholic Elementary in Amherstburg were sent home to self-isolate Tuesday after one of their classmates tested positive for the coronavirus. The case is the Windsor-Essex region's first at an elementary school since schools reopened last Thursday.

Health unit says it's happy with how Stella Maris Catholic Elementary in Amherstburg handled case

Officials at Stella Maris Catholic Elementary School in Amherstburg were notified Tuesday that one of the school's students tested positive for coronavirus (Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board/Facebook)

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit will allow the teacher of a student who tested positive for COVID-19 at Stella Maris Catholic Elementary to keep attending the Amherstburg school if they are deemed a low-risk contact.

The case is the region's first at an elementary school since schools reopened last Thursday.

About 20 students were sent home to self-isolate Tuesday after one of their classmates tested positive for the virus. The school was notified that morning, and students were dismissed throughout the day.

During the health unit's daily COVID-19 briefing Wednesday, the region's medical officer of health, Dr. Wajid Ahmed, said he's happy with how the school handled the situation.

"We've tried to identify any potential risk to anyone outside that case and to that classroom," said Ahmed.

Health officials are advising close contacts of the student — classmates and siblings, for example — to self-isolate for 14 days and to get tested for COVID-19 within five days of the initial reported exposure. It's a recommendation, however, and is not mandatory.

If no symptoms develop, classmates of the student will be allowed to return to school after 14 days.

Teachers won't automatically have to isolate

When a Windsor-Essex student tests positive for coronavirus, the student's teachers don't automatically need to self-isolate, Ahmed clarified. Public health nurses assigned to the school will interview any teacher who may have been in a class with the student to determine if they are a high-risk contact.

If not, they will be asked to self-monitor for symptoms but can continue to attend school.

Dr. Wajid Ahmed, medical officer of health for the Windsor-Essex region, says he doesn't think the emergence of COVID-19 at Stella Maris will result in community spread. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

"We are closely monitoring the situation," said Ahmed. "We are hoping with all those good measures in place, there should not be any transmission in the school board."

Ahmed said the student was driven to and from school so did not come into contact with other students on the way to or from school. When asked if classmates of the student's siblings should also self-isolate, Ahmed said that would not be necessary.

"If there are any siblings, they are to exclude from [attending school] since they were a high-risk contact of the case," he said. "But just being a sibling doesn't make them a case. Anyone who is part of the class of that sibling is not at risk."

Health unit to reach out to affected families

Health officials said the COVID-positive student was not symptomatic while attending class. 

Two public health nurses assigned to Stella Maris Catholic Elementary to assist with COVID-19 protocols arrived at the school Tuesday. On Wednesday, the health unit said it would be reaching out to families of students who were sent home and may have had close contact with the student. Families will be advised on the next steps around testing and how returning to school will work.

David Beaulie, the grandfather of a student at Stella Maris, says schools in Windsor-Essex were allowed to reopen far too early. (Darrin DiCarlo/CBC)

David Beaulie's granddaughter attends Stella Maris and said the positive case confirms his belief that schools were opened much too soon.

"I know I'm not happy about it," he said. "She's in Grade 2/3 split, and they're not even wearing masks. You would think they're the ones that are going to be the most important to us — the young ones."

Just a matter of time before the rest of them start catching it.​​​​- David Beaulie, grandfather of student at Stella Maris Catholic Elementary

Speaking with CBC News on Wednesday, Beaulie said he's observed secondary-level students at a nearby high school walking down the street within one foot (a little over 30 centimetres) of one another.

"Just a matter of time before the rest of them start catching it."

Aurelien Erenati's children also attend Stella Maris. He said hearing of the COVID-positive student didn't phase him.

"It's no one's fault. It happens," he said.


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