The COVID-19 outbreak at a North Kildonan school now numbers 20 cases, public health officials said Tuesday, as half of the John Pritchard School students still expected to attend classes there stayed away.
Last week, seven cases were reported at the kindergarten-to-Grade 8 school where about 250 students in cohorts that may have been exposed were sent home for at least two weeks of remote learning.
Parents and guardians on pickup duty at the school were feeling the weight of the situation as their kids left the building at the end of the day.
“My feeling is not very calm,” said the mother of three students as she waited outside for their dismissal. “All day, before I pick them up, I am thinking about my children.”
The children aren’t scared, she said. But she is.
A man picking up his granddaughter was less ill at ease.
“I feel fine, she feels fine, and I think they’re doing the best they can,” he said, referring to both the school and province. “The reality of the situation is not a matter of if they’re going to get it, but when. There’s going to be more cases in more schools — I think that’s inevitable. But I think everyone’s doing the best job they can.”
Schools with confirmed cases
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• Beaverlodge Elementary School
• College Louis Riel
• Churchill High School
• Daniel McIntyre Collegiate
• Emerson School
• Garden City Collegiate
• Gordon Bell High School
• John Pritchard School
• Meadows School (Brandon)
• New Era School (Brandon)
• St. Aidan’s Christian School
• St. Maurice School
A spokeswoman for the River East Transcona School Division said 308 of the school’s students are learning remotely and 76 are supposed be in the classroom, but 50 per cent of them were absent for in-class learning Tuesday.
The growing case numbers came as no surprise; chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin told a media briefing Monday that more cases connected to the infected cohort would likely be confirmed and announced.
Division spokeswoman Amanda Gaudes said public health officials have not advised administrators of any additional measures required at the school.
Meanwhile, the province reported a confirmed case of COVID-19 at College Louis Riel on Sept. 14. The francophone high school is working closely with public health officials; areas used by the infected person were closed off until cleaning and disinfection occurred.
Close contacts have been identified and are self-isolating. The school remains open and no one else is currently required to self-isolate.
The province said the infection was not acquired at school, and based on the investigation, the exposure was assessed as low-risk.
Meanwhile, parents of students at Emerson School in North Kildonan were informed Tuesday that a person with a confirmed case of COVID-19 was in the elementary school on Sept. 16 and 17. The area used by the infected person was disinfected and close contacts are being notified.
Officials also announced a possible exposure at the elementary school in Gladstone.
An asymptomatic individual visited the K-6 school in the town, 150 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, during the school day Sept. 8-10 and Sept. 14.
In a letter to parents, Dr. Davinder Singh, medical officer of health at Southern Health, wrote that all close contacts connected to the case have been identified and advised to self-isolate.
“All other students and staff can continue to attend school in person,” he advised.
Students and staff members who have not been contacted by public health are being asked to self-monitor for symptoms, no matter how minor. Singh said it is recommended children are tested for COVID-19 as soon as symptoms appear.
— With files from Ben Waldman and Maggie Macintosh
Carol Sanders Legislature reporter
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.
On Oct. 8, Quebec introduced new public health measures for regions under the province’s highest COVID-19 alert level, shuttering gyms, putting limits on team sports and making masks mandatory for high school students.
Last week, Legault hinted that some red zone restrictions would remain in place even as the initial 28-day lockdown in Montreal and Quebec City come to an end on Wednesday.
Legault, Health Minister Christian Dubé and Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec’s director of public health, are to hold a news conference this afternoon.
2:08 Quebec gym owners, athletes in COVID-19 red zones brace for 2nd shutdown
Quebec gym owners, athletes in COVID-19 red zones brace for 2nd shutdown
A coalition of Quebec gyms, yoga studios and other recreational activity centres are threatening to reopen at the end of the week, even if the province extends the 28-day partial lockdown.
Such facilities have been closed since Oct. 8, as part of a series of measures imposed by the government to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Premier François Legault has scheduled a news conference for 5 p.m. today, where he is expected to extend many of the measures imposed earlier this month in red zones.
Owners of fitness facilities say they have spent thousands of dollars to ensure their locations are safe and that their clients depend on exercise to keep physically and mentally healthy.
In a statement issued Monday, the group — which says it numbers more than 200 — says they will reopen Oct. 29 regardless of what the government decides.
“All the sanitary measures in force will be respected,” the statement said.
“If the government by then can prove to us, through studies, that we are the source of the outbreak, we will reverse it.”
Question of mental and physical health, owners say
Dan Marino and Christian Ménard, two of the men representing the coalition, both have shared social media posts publicly that provide misleading information about COVID-19.
For example, Marino has shared posts on his Facebook page that question the effectiveness of masks and minimize the dangers of the novel coronavirus. Ménard has asked people to sign a petition against Quebec’s mandatory mask law.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Marino said It would be unacceptable for gyms to stay closed.
“I have heard from too many people who are in distress,” said Marino who owns Mega Fitness Gym in Quebec CIty. “It’s mental and physical health.”
Dany Laflamme, owner of Nova Gym, a martial arts centre in Quebec City, said customers are calling every day.
“It’s truly sad. My customers are my family,” he said.
The Canadian provinces hardest hit by the global COVID-19 pandemic released sobering numbers on Sunday, with Quebec’s overall case count passing the 100,000 mark and Ontario registering more than 1,000 single-day cases for the first time since the start of the worldwide outbreak.
Despite registering comparable daily tallies, the two provinces long at the epicentre of Canada’s COVID-19 outbreak appeared to be on opposite trajectories.
Public health experts noted that Quebec’s long-standing high case counts appeared to be levelling off, while stressing the week ahead will be crucial to bring Ontario’s surging numbers back under control.
Quebec health officials reported 879 new cases, bringing the province’s total to 100,114 infections. The province also recorded 11 additional deaths attributed to the virus, for a total of 6,143.
“Comparing the past two weeks, we see that the number of cases is stable, but remains high,” Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube said on Twitter, urging people to make an effort to reduce transmission of the virus.
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The province’s recent COVID-19 numbers are more encouraging than they were last month, however, said Helene Carabin, a professor at Universite de Montreal.
Carabin said Quebec’s COVID-19 reproduction number, which measures the virus’ ability to spread, is slowly creeping lower — a positive sign that indicates people are following public health guidelines.
“The population has clearly understood that in order to limit transmission, we have to be more careful,” she said in an interview.
“We’re going in the right direction, unlike what was the case in September. Now what it tells us is that probably we will continue to have to keep being very careful during the winter months for it not to creep up.”
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s top public health officer, said in a statement Sunday that a “resurgence” of COVID-19 continues across the country.
Tam said there is a concern that Canada has not yet seen the full impact of the recent increase in COVID-19 cases, as hospitalizations and deaths generally lag behind case numbers.
Quebec’s COVID-19 cases leveling off but this week will be crucial to bring Ontario’s surging numbers back under control. #COVID-19 #Ontario #Quebec
Canada had 215,879 total cases of COVID-19 as of Sunday, including 9,940 deaths.
Manitoba announced 161 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday and the deaths of four people — two of which were related to an outbreak at a Winnipeg long-term care home where 17 people have now died.
Saskatchewan reported 60 new cases, down from its record-high of 78 that was set on Saturday, and no new deaths have been reported since Oct. 11.
Public health officials in Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case of COVID-19, while officials in New Brunswick reported two new infections and two additional deaths.
In Ontario, which recorded more than 1,000 new cases in a 24-hour period on Sunday for the first time since the pandemic took hold, at least one medical expert voiced concerns about the overall trend of the provincial figures.
The province reported 1,042 new COVID-19 cases, breaking the previous day’s single-day peak of 978 new infections. It also reported seven new deaths related to the novel coronavirus.
“Obviously no one wants to see 1,000 new cases per day,” said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist and researcher at Toronto General Hospital.
Bogoch said that while the cause of the recent spike is not entirely clear, the week ahead will offer a critical window for assessing the province’s progress in combatting the pandemic.
“Are we going to start to see a plateau in these numbers, reflective of a successful policy implementation in the hotspots in Ontario,” Bogoch asked, referring to major metropolitan regions where the bulk of the province’s latest cases have been concentrated.
“Or will we see a continuing growth in the number of new cases per day?”
Both Ontario and Quebec have reimposed restrictions over the past several weeks to try to contain the spread of the virus during the second wave of the pandemic.
Several regions of Quebec, including Montreal and Quebec City, were placed under the highest COVID-19 alert level, which forced the closure of bars and other public venues.
Quebecers in high-risk areas have also been told to avoid seeing anyone who does not live in their household.
In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford has promised to provide an update on Monday on whether the Halton and Durham regions would join Toronto, Peel, Ottawa and York in “modified Stage 2” of the province’s economic reopening plan.
Indoor gatherings are limited to 10 people in Stage 2 regions, and gyms, casinos, cinemas and other venues in those areas must also be closed.
Public health officials across Canada have urged people to be extra vigilant during the second wave of the pandemic, as colder weather pushes people indoors.
In her statement, Tam said influenza and other respiratory infections place an added strain on hospitals in the fall and winter months, making it even more important to heed preventative measures.
“Right now, doing the best thing to keep our family, friends and community safer means keeping safely apart,” she said.
On Sunday, 278 people were hospitalized in Ontario due to the virus, including 79 in intensive care. In Quebec, 551 hospitalizations were recorded, of which 97 were in intensive care.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 25, 2020.
–with files from Holly McKenzie-Sutter in Toronto, Rob Drinkwater in Edmonton and Michael MacDonald in Halifax.
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