Tue. Oct 26th, 2021

The school closed last week after students in several classrooms tested positive. There are 705 students at St. Benedict.

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About five percent of the students at the elementary school St. Benedict in Barrhaven has been given COVID-19 in an outbreak that Ottawa Public Health said Wednesday had grown to 35 cases.

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The school closed last week after students in several classrooms tested positive. There are 705 students at St. Benedict.

Three schools in Ottawa are now temporarily closed and 11 have active outbreaks due to COVID-19.

An outbreak is declared when public health officials conclude that there is a reasonable chance that the virus will spread in the school.

An eruption at the Mauril-Bélanger elementary in Vanier now includes 21 students, OPH said on Wednesday. That school closed Monday.

Mauril-Bélanger Elementary School in Ottawa was closed Monday due to a COVID-19 outbreak.  Ottawa Public Health reported Wednesday that the outbreak now affected 21 students.
Mauril-Bélanger Elementary School in Ottawa was closed Monday due to a COVID-19 outbreak. Ottawa Public Health reported Wednesday that the outbreak now affected 21 students. Photo by Jacquie Miller /jpg

Marius-Barbeau Elementary, the second school to be temporarily closed, has an outbreak with 12 students / visitors and two staff, OPH said.

Dr. Nisha Thampi, a pediatrician for infectious diseases at CHEO, suggested on Wednesday that additional screening and testing measures at vulnerable schools with outbreaks could help prevent transfer and school closures.

COVID has disproportionately affected low-income, marginalized, racialized societies, ”she wrote on social media.

Half of the students at the Mauril-Bélanger school come from lower-income families, most do not speak English or French as a first language, and 10 percent receive special education services, Thampi wrote.

“School is an important place for them,” she wrote.

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Thampi suggested that both home PCR testing and rapid testing could help.

Ottawa Public Health distributes PCR take-home kits to all students and staff at the three closed schools as well as at the Francojeunesse elementary, which has an outbreak involving nine students.

At the Francojeunesse, due to a miscommunication between the school and the health nurse, “a small number of students” were accidentally notified that they could return to school last week when they should have been home isolated, OPH said.

The public health nurse conducted a risk assessment at Francojeunesse and “concluded that no additional risk of transmission was identified with that cohort (one classroom),” according to a statement from OPH. “OPH is working to ensure clearer messages and communication in the future.”

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At all four schools that offer PCR testing, parents pick up the kits and send them back to school so they can be taken to a lab.

Ontario on Tuesday announced a new program that would make rapid antigen testing available to schools in high-risk areas or in outbreaks after the local doctor.

The rapid tests are for unvaccinated students only without COVID-19 symptoms or high-risk exposure.

Parents had pressured the province to use rapid tests to help keep unvaccinated students in elementary schools safe and had begun organizing their own distribution programs.

COVID-19 vaccines are not approved for children under 12 years of age.

The rapid tests would be used in schools to detect “silent spreaders” of COVID-19 and prevent them from unknowingly transmitting the virus to classmates. About 30 to 50 percent of children with COVID-19 have no symptoms.

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Rapid antigen tests can be performed at home and give results in about 15 minutes.

The rapid tests can also be used in schools that have experienced an outbreak of a “test to stay” strategy, allowing students without symptoms or high-risk exposure to stay in class and prevent school closures.

Ottawa Public Health says it is studying the new rapid antigen testing program and expects to share more information soon.

The Eastern Ontario Health Unit, which has the second-highest COVID-19 case rate in the province, says it will ask for rapid COVID-19 tests for some of its schools.

The tests are likely to be employed at COVID-19 hot spots in Cornwall and Hawkesbury, the health unit said in a statement.

Eastern Ontario Health Unit's health officer, Dr.  Paul Roumeliotis, says he hopes to get PCR test kits for home use in schools soon.
Eastern Ontario Health Unit’s health officer, Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, says he hopes to get PCR test kits for home use in schools soon. Delivered

The high frequency of COVID-19 in eastern Ontario is driven by several pockets in the region, where vaccination rates are behind average, according to Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, healthcare professional.

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The Eastern Ontario Health Unit’s average weekly number of new cases per 100,000 inhabitants on Wednesday were 66, according to daily COVID-19 data compiled by biostatistician Ryan Imgrund. That was more than double the provincial case rate of 27 and the second highest in the province after Chatham-Kent at 104. Ottawa’s case rate was 35.

(By comparison, a case of 40 under the old color-coded system of pandemic restrictions in Ontario was one of the indicators that would tip an area into the “red” zone.)

The high rate of health care in eastern Ontario is driven by the COVID-19 hot spot in Cornwall, according to data Roumeliotis presented during the briefing.

The majority of new cases and hospitalizations are in unvaccinated people, he said, and across the health unit about a third of COVID-19 cases are in school-age children.

Roumeliotis said he was hoping to get PCR test kits home for use in schools soon.

Ottawa began distributing take-home tests in pilot projects last spring and now has them available at many schools.

jmiller@postmedia.com

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