As soon as the Simcoe County District School Board notified parents and students at Bear Creek Secondary School in Barrie, Ont., that there had been a confirmed case of the novel coronavirus, Amanda Gilbert pulled her 15-year-old daughter out of school.
Gilbert gave birth to twins two months premature in July, and with COVID-19 cases climbing across the region, she didn’t want to risk the virus being brought into her home and potentially affecting her family.
At first, the Barrie mom planned to keep her Grade 11 daughter home for two weeks to self-isolate while she monitored any possible additional cases at Bear Creek.
And while the Barrie high school hasn’t reported any more COVID-19 cases, Gilbert said she plans to keep her daughter learning from home for the foreseeable future.
“Last time, I feel like we waited too long to do anything about it, and I feel like that’s kind of happening again,” Gilbert said of Ontario’s rising COVID-19 cases.
“What are we waiting for? We know there’s a second wave coming, we know it’s starting, yet we’re still allowing everything to continue basically as it has been.”
One classroom closed after the Simcoe County public school board confirmed the case of COVID-19 at Bear Creek, although the school’s building still remains open.
Aside from Bear Creek, three other schools under the Simcoe County District School Board are reporting one case of COVID-19 each — Admiral Collingwood Elementary School, Goodfellow Public School in Innisfil and Worsley Elementary School in Wasaga Beach.
Under the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board, five elementary schools are reporting one COVID-19 case each — Sister Catherine Donnelly and St. John Vianney in Barrie, St. Angela Merici in Bradford, Father F.X. O’Reilly in Tottenham and St. Paul’s in Alliston. While all the schools remain open, most have had to close at least one classroom.
Bobbi Howe, a Barrie mother with two children in elementary and high school, is thinking about pulling one of her daughters out of school due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases. Howe’s kids are enrolled in schools under the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board.
While Howe’s elementary school daughter has been pursuing the board’s online learning option since the start of the school year, her other daughter has been attending classes in person.
“She’s immunocompromised — my elementary school daughter — so that’s why I kept her at home, and with the masks, she’s only in Grade 1, so I don’t know if she’d keep the mask on,” Howe told Global News. “My daughter who’s in high school, I knew (she) would.”
If there’s a confirmed coronavirus case at Howe’s daughter’s high school, she said she would keep her home.
“The reason I’m hesitant is because I don’t know how her learning would go afterward,” she said.
Coronavirus: More than 50 TDSB schools report COVID-19 cases
Under the Simcoe County District School Board, there are 2,900 high school students and 7,000 elementary students who are participating in the board’s online learning program. This represents about 18 per cent of all students in the board.
“We have received some requests to switch between modes — both from in-school to Learn@Home and from Learn@Home to in-school,” Sarah Kekewich, the Simcoe County District School Board’s spokesperson, said in an email.
“At this time, switching between modes may take place at the natural term transition, which is February 2021.”
Kekewich said all teachers in the board are required to maintain digital learning platforms to ensure the continuity of learning for their students.
“Parents or guardians must notify their child’s classroom teacher and the school principal if they wish to remain at home,” she added. “The classroom teacher will provide specific instructions for accessing the digital platform assigned and there will be standard expectations for the submission of assignments.”
The region’s Catholic school board has more than 4,500 students enrolled in its online learning program, according to Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board spokesperson Pauline Stevenson.
Students who are looking to move between in-class and online learning are only able to do so during natural breaks in the school year. For upcoming changes, requests must be submitted by Oct. 23. Transfers will be processed on Nov. 18 for elementary students and on Nov. 12 for high school students.
“Students who have opted for in-class learning and are unable to attend school for any reason, including confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases or self-isolation purposes, will not be permitted to join a virtual classroom,” the board says on its website.
“Instead, the students will continue to connect with their classroom teacher to complete work as required — this is the same approach we have always used to address longer-term student absences.”
Before Gilbert pulled her daughter out of Bear Creek, her concern was that students under Simcoe County’s public school board were able to leave the premises for lunch.
“Those are not the things that we want happening right now,” Dr. Bonnie Henry urges teenagers not to gather in large numbers during school breaks.
“What is the point in having them stagger classes if you’re going to let them all congregate at lunchtime anyhow?” she said. “It doesn’t make any sense to me.”
Kekewich said Simcoe County’s public schools are working with students to make sure they’re informed about and practising the necessary COVID-19 health and safety measures. At this time, she notes, the board isn’t looking at prohibiting students from leaving for lunch.
More than a week ago, the region’s Catholic school board stopped allowing students to leave for lunch, although it’s since modified its approach.
“What we have done for secondary school lunches is that we have moved the lunch period to the end of the school day,” Stevenson said, adding there are also two 15-minute nutrition breaks throughout the day.
“Students have the option to remain in the school and have their lunch at the end of the day in their classroom and it’s supervised, or they could leave the school and attend lunch outside school property and then come back and catch a bus, if they take a bus, or they have the option to leave and go home.”
Throughout Simcoe County, there are nine schools that have reported COVID-19 cases, although the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit hasn’t confirmed any school outbreaks.
On Thursday, the Ontario government revised screening guidelines for schools and child-care centres across the province. Officials are now asking parents to keep their children home from school for 24 hours if they have a headache or runny nose.
If a child has both those symptoms, officials are asking parents to consult a health-care provider or get their kids tested for the novel coronavirus before they return to school or child care.
Over the last two weeks, there have been 386 school-related COVID-19 cases in Ontario. There are currently also three schools in the province that are closed due to the novel coronavirus.
Earlier this week, Ontario Premier Doug Ford confirmed the province has entered its second wave of COVID-19.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Growing deaths in South Korea spark fears over safety of flu vaccine program – Global News
South Korean officials refused to suspend the country’s seasonal flu inoculation program on Thursday, despite growing calls to do so following the deaths of at least 13 people who were vaccinated in recent days.
Health authorities said they have found no direct links between the deaths, which include a 17-year-old boy, and the vaccines being given under a program to inoculate some 19 million teenagers and senior citizens for free.
“The number of deaths has increased, but our team sees low possibility that the deaths resulted from the shots,” Jeong Eun-kyeong, director of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA), told parliament.
South Korea ordered 20% more flu vaccines this year to ward off what it calls a “twindemic” of people with flu developing potential COVID-19 complications, and overburdening hospitals over the winter.
“I understand and regret that people are concerned about the vaccine,” Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said on Thursday, while confirming the free program would go ahead.
“We’re looking into the causes but will again thoroughly examine the entire process in which various government agencies are involved, from production to distribution,” he added.
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The country’s free vaccine program uses doses manufactured by local drug makers GC Pharma, SK Bioscience and Ilyang Pharmaceutical Co, along with France’s Sanofi and Britain’s Glaxosmithkline. The vaccines are distributed by local companies LG Chem Ltd and Boryung Biopharma Co. Ltd., a unit of Boryung Pharm Co. Ltd. .
GC Pharma, LG Chem, SK Bioscience and Boryung declined to comment. Ilyang Pharmaceutical, Sanofi and GSK did not immediately reply to requests for comment.
It was not immediately clear if any of the South Korean-manufactured vaccines were exported, or whether those supplied by Sanofi and GSK were also being used in other countries.
Kim Chong-in, leader of the main opposition People Power party, said the program should be halted until the exact causes of the deaths had been verified.
Health authorities said on Wednesday that a preliminary investigation into six deaths found no direct connection to the vaccines. No toxic substances were found in the vaccines, and at least five of the six people investigated had underlying conditions, officials said.
The free program has proved controversial from its launch last month. Its start was suspended for three weeks after it was discovered that some 5 million doses, which need to be refrigerated, had been exposed to room temperature while being transported to a medical facility.
Officials said 8.3 million people had been inoculated since the program resumed on Oct. 13, with around 350 cases of adverse reactions reported.
The government is also offering a paid vaccine program which, combined with the free program, aims to inoculate about 30 million of the country’s 52-million population. Under the paid program, the purchaser can select the vaccine provider from a larger pool that includes the free vaccine manufacturers plus others.
What’s the different between COVID-19 and the flu? Answering your coronavirus questions
The highest number of deaths in South Korea linked to seasonal flu vaccinations was six in 2005, according to the Yonhap news agency. Officials have said it is difficult to make comparisons to previous years because of the greater numbers of people taking the vaccine this year.
Kim Myung-suk, 65, who is eligible for a free vaccine, was among a growing number of people opting to exercise choice instead.
“Though just a few people died so far, the number is growing and that makes me uneasy,” she told Reuters in Seoul. “So I’m getting a shot somewhere else and will pay for it.”
(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Additional reporting by Sangmi Cha, Dogyun Kim and Daewoung Kim; editing by Jane Wardell)
© 2020 Reuters
At least 49 cases of COVID-19 linked to wedding in Calgary: Alberta Health – Burns Lake Lakes District News
Alberta Health says 49 active COVID-19 cases have been linked to a wedding in Calgary earlier this month.
The health agency says the wedding had a large number of Albertans from different households.
Alberta Health spokesman Tom McMillan says aggressive contact tracing is underway to identify anyone who may have been exposed to make sure they are isolating and getting tested.
He did not say how many people attended the wedding and says specifics about individual cases cannot be disclosed because of patient confidentiality.
COVID-19 restrictions implemented by the province say a maximum of 100 people can attend outdoor and indoor seated events, such as wedding ceremonies, funeral services, movie theatres, indoor arts and culture performances.
McMillan says the city of Calgary has recently seen several outbreaks linked to social gatherings.
“This is a reminder to all Albertans that this virus is still here and any social gathering carries a risk of exposure,” he said in an email Tuesday.
“It is important that nobody attend if they are feeling ill with even mild symptoms, or if they are awaiting test results.”
He says it is also important that organizers do everything possible to comply with the public health guidance in place, including having enough space for physical distancing between cohorts, following gathering size restrictions and avoiding sharing food and utensils.
The Canadian Press
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South Korea sticks to flu vaccine plan despite safety fears after 13 deaths – CBC.ca
South Korean officials refused to suspend a seasonal influenza inoculation effort on Thursday, despite growing calls for a halt, including an appeal from a key group of doctors, after the deaths of at least 13 of those vaccinated.
Health authorities said they found no direct links between the deaths and the vaccines.
At least 11 of the 13 dead, including a 17-year-old boy, were part of a campaign to inoculate 19 million teenagers and senior citizens for free, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.
“The number of deaths has increased, but our team sees low possibility that the deaths resulted from the shots,” the agency’s director, Jeong Eun-kyeong, told Parliament.
South Korea ordered a fifth more flu vaccines this year to ward off what it calls a “twindemic,” or the prospect that people with flu develop coronavirus complications and overburden hospitals in winter.
“I understand and regret that people are concerned about the vaccine,” said Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said, who confirmed the free program would go ahead.
“We’re looking into the causes but will again thoroughly examine the entire process in which various government agencies are involved, from production to distribution.”
Vaccine providers include domestic firms such as GC Pharma, SK Bioscience, Korea Vaccine and Boryung Biopharma, a unit of Boryung Pharm, along with France’s Sanofi.
They supply both the free program and paid services that together aim to vaccinate about 30 million of a population of 52 million.
Of the 13 who died, five received products from SK Bioscience, three from Boryung, two each from GC Pharma and Korea Vaccine and one from Sanofi.
All four domestic firms declined to comment, while Sanofi did not immediately reply to requests for comment.
It was not immediately clear if any of the vaccines made in South Korea were exported, or if those supplied by Sanofi were also being used elsewhere.
Medical association calls for pause
The Korean Medical Association, an influential grouping of doctors, urged the government to halt all inoculation programs for now, to allay public concerns and ensure the vaccines were safe.
Kim Chong-in, leader of the main opposition People Power party, wanted the program halted until the causes of the deaths were verified.
But health authorities have said a preliminary investigation into six deaths found no direct link to the vaccines, with no toxic substances uncovered.
KDCA data on Thursday showed at least seven of the nine people it investigated had underlying conditions.
The free program has proved controversial since it began last month. The launch had been suspended for three weeks after the discovery that about five million doses were kept at room temperature rather than being refrigerated, as required.
Officials said 8.3 million people had been inoculated since the program resumed on Oct. 13, with about 350 cases of adverse reactions reported.
A separate paid program allows buyers to pick from a larger pool of firms that make free vaccines and others.
The most deaths in South Korea linked to seasonal flu vaccinations was six in 2005, the Yonhap news agency said. Officials have said comparisons to previous years are tough, since more people are taking the vaccine this year.
Kim Myung-suk, 65, is among a growing number of South Koreans who decided to pay for a vaccine of their choice, despite being eligible for a free dose.
“Though just a few people died so far, the number is growing and that makes me uneasy,” she told Reuters in the capital, Seoul. “So I’m getting a shot somewhere else and will pay for it.”
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