Her family did everything right, but they still got COVID-19 in the middle of a school outburst

A woman in Ottawa says she is frustrated and furious after her entire family got COVID-19 in the middle of a school outbreak recently, despite taking all possible precautions against the virus.

The CBC has agreed not to name the woman or her family members, nor to reveal certain details that could identify them – including where the woman works – because she is concerned that speaking out could jeopardize her career.

“We are a family that feels we have done everything right,” the woman said in a phone interview from her home earlier this week.

It feels like we’ve been surpassing this monster for 19 months, and none of it mattered anyway, because now it’s right out the door

“We are very frustrated that we are in this position because it feels like we have been surpassing this monster for 19 months and none of it really mattered, because now this is right outside the door.”

The woman’s daughters, six and nine, go to St. Benedict Catholic School in Ottawa’s suburb of Barrhaven. Elementary school was temporarily closed last week due to a COVID-19 outbreak that involved at least 35 cases. (Three elementary schools in Ottawa have now been closed due to outbreaks, including one Monday.)

The previous Friday, the woman’s younger daughter began to complain that her head and body hurt, and she later developed a deep cough. Over the next two days, the woman, 38, her husband, 40, and their nine-year-old daughter also became ill with a variety of symptoms, including fever, congestion, and diarrhea.

“It’s not like you get really sick slowly, and then you get better slowly,” the woman said. “Every day, some symptoms may have completely disappeared and then others have appeared. And it may last a day or two – and then they are gone and the others are back.”

The woman’s daughters go to St. Benedict Catholic School in the Barrhaven neighborhood of Ottawa, where at least 35 cases have now been linked to a COVID-19 outbreak. (Francis Ferland / CBC)

Couple double vaccinated

Both the woman and her husband have been double-vaccinated against COVID-19 and have been for several months.

Nevertheless, all four family members tested in the days after their symptoms first turned out to be positive. The pair are now among a growing number of so-called breakthrough infections in Canada.

That is despite having taken “a great deal of caution,” the woman said. The family has had limited contact with others, wearing tight-fitting N95 masks wherever they go and wash their hands religiously.

But because her job requires her to be out of the house every weekday, and her husband, even though she works from home, is too busy supervising their daughters’ schooling, the family had no choice but to send the girls back to school in September. , said the woman.

She said her younger daughter, who has just started class 1, would often complain that her classmates did not always distance themselves or wear their masks properly and would talk during lunch despite the rules.

“It feels like we could not protect our children even if we tried to do everything right,” the woman said. “And it really is [terrible] feel for a parent. “

The province has ‘failed miserably’

She does not blame the school, the board or even local public health officials, but rather the province.

“I put my family’s health in their hands and I feel like they failed miserably,” she said. “I have a hard time believing that there is nothing else we could do to keep our children safer … but I know all of these things come with a price tag. And those are things that the provincial government is not. willing to do to protect our children. “

The woman believes the province is failing to fund local school boards sufficiently to take extra precautions such as dizzying lunch breaks and breaks or increase supervision to ensure students follow COVID-19 protocols.

I feel that there is a false security and a false security.

She also worries that the Ottawa Public Health self-screening tool used by the Ottawa Catholic School Board may not have captured some of the milder symptoms her older daughter first experienced.

“We would not have been caught by the self-screening tool, and that worries me a lot,” she said.

(Both the screening tool and the current provincial guidelines state that children should stay home if anyone in the household experiences symptoms.)

Finally, she believes that schools should implement widespread random testing of students to get asymptomatic cases before they can cause an outbreak.

“If they could implement it tomorrow, I would feel much more confident about our family situation and how the rest of the school year is going to play out,” she said Monday.

On Tuesday, the province announced it would distribute rapid antigen test kits to schools and childcare centers in high-risk areas at the request of local public health units. Take-home test kits are also available from dozens of Ottawa schools.

Slow recovery

The woman’s daughters are now recovering well, but she has lost her sense of taste and smell and has a rubbing cough. Her husband, who has asthma and suffered from pneumonia in August, has been the slowest to recover, she said.

She said that if they could, they would continue to keep their daughters home from school, and she warns other parents against becoming complacent because they have been vaccinated or because their child’s school has not experienced an outbreak.

“I feel like there’s a false sense of security and a false sense of security, and I on my own realize how much I also fell into it,” she said.

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