At least 335 Windsor-Essex students exposed to COVID-19 during 1st week of school
Seven English Catholic schools in Windsor-Essex have positive COVID-19 cases
One week into the school year and at least 335 students in the Windsor, Ont., area have been sent home from exposure to positive COVID-19 cases.
Since the first day of school on Tuesday, seven schools in the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board (WECDSB) have reported student and staff cases. In total, 275 students have been told not to return to class in the last three days.
This comes as COVID-19 cases in Windsor-Essex continue to rise, with 543 active cases and 17 people in hospital as of Friday. The region has one of the highest case rates in Ontario, according to provincial data.
Jessica Summerfield, president of the Essex County Medical Society, said on Friday that families should be ready with plans in case the kids need to stay home.
They also need to be vigilant about screening and testing if symptoms come up.
"Any symptom, it's COVID until proven otherwise," she said. "The risk is much too high for our community, so it's always, always best to err on the side of caution, get the negative COVID swab and then just be reassured."
Vaccination rates lag
Teen vaccination rates lag in Windsor-Essex, when compared to the rest of the province.
Of those 12 to 17 years old, only 55.4 per cent are fully vaccinated, based on data from the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU). That's nearly 10 per cent below the vaccination rate for that age group across the province.
Schools with confirmed cases include:
- Cardinal Carter Secondary School, with one student case and 39 students dismissed.
- St. Pius X Catholic Elementary School with one student case and 27 students dismissed.
- St. John de Brebeuf Catholic Elementary School, with one student case and 20 students dismissed.
- St. Joseph's Catholic High School, with two student cases, one staff case and 91 students dismissed.
- St. John Vianney Catholic Elementary School, with one student case and 58 students (from a class and bus cohort) dismissed.
- F.J. Brennan Catholic High School, with one student case and 40 students (from two class cohorts) dismissed.
The first school in the region to report a COVID-19 case was Stella Maris Catholic Elementary School on Wednesday. Fifty-seven students were sent home — one class and one bus cohort — after a single confirmed case.
All schools remain open, according to the WECDSB's website.
Meanwhile, the Greater Essex County District School Board had three confirmed cases from the first week of school.
According to the board's website, those cases are at:
- Bellewood Public School, with one case.
- W.F. Herman Academy Secondary, with one case.
- Queen Victoria Public School, with one case.
The Greater Essex County District School Board does not specify how many students, if any, have been dismissed as a result of exposure to those three cases.
Cohort dismissal depends on vaccinations
According to provincial guidance, anyone who is asymptomatic and fully vaccinated — or who has been cleared after testing positive in the last 90 days — is generally not required to isolate following a high-risk exposure to a positive COVID case, and wouldn't need to be dismissed from school.
But if vaccination status is unknown, or there are people who are not immunized in the cohort, the local public health unit might decide to dismiss the entire cohort, to protect those who aren't vaccinated.
Once further assessed, part of the cohort may be allowed to return, says the document.
In cohorts with high immunization rates, "immediate dismissal of the whole cohort may not be necessary."
Instead the province says it may be enough to dismiss only those students who are not vaccinated, or who have not obtained natural immunity in the last 90 days.
With files from Katerina Georgieva