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Huron Perth Public Health confirms first school-related exposure of COVID-19

STRATFORD – Huron Perth Public Health (HPPH) has confirmed the first school-related COVID-19 case in the region.

In a press release on Oct. 16, HPPH stated a “member of the school community” at St. Joseph’s Catholic Elementary School in Stratford is a probable case of COVID-19. Officials say that investigators have determined that the case was at the school when they may have been infectious.

“In this case, this is a low-risk situation for the school community and the public at large,” said Dr. Miriam Klassen, Huron-Perth medical officer of health.

“However, out of an abundance of caution, we will be taking the situation seriously to prevent the possible spread of the virus in a school.”

During a case and contact investigation into the confirmed case, HPPH determined that the school community member was a suspect, and then probable, case. A probable case of COVID-19 is currently defined as a case where a physician strongly suspects COVID-19 and additional factors are involved, including:

patient has travel history and/or;

patient has contact with a known case and/or;

patient has symptoms but testing has not been carried out.

HPPH says it is important to note that all individuals awaiting testing results are not probable cases. As well, probable and suspect cases do not appear on the HPPH website of confirmed case counts.

“Public Health only reports confirmed cases received through testing for surveillance purposes to help us understand the burden of disease in our community,” explained Klassen.

Going forward, HPPH will not routinely comment on individual probable or confirmed cases in a school setting, unless there is an outbreak or there are other public health considerations for the community at large.

In this case, notification has been sent to parents, guardians and staff of the school community. Initial close contacts were notified of the situation from HPPH case investigators. Close contacts of the probable case have been advised to stay home from school and to quarantine.

Due to privacy considerations, HPPH will not be publicly disclosing any further details about the probable case, or the number of close contacts at the school. The school continues to be open, and this low-risk situation is not an outbreak.

HPPH says they are working with the Huron Perth Catholic District School Board (HPCDSB) and the school to determine next steps and provide additional support.

“I am confident in the assessment from Public Health that the risk to our school community is low,” said Chris N. Roehrig, director of education of the HPCDSB.

“We are working closely with Public Health and are committed to following the processes established by the Ministry of Education and Public Health organizations to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our school community.”

Public Health wants to remind people to continue to practice good hand hygiene, maintain physical distancing, wear a face covering, and stay home if you are sick. They are also encouraging people to download the COVID-19 Alert mobile app.

“This is a reminder that COVID-19 is still present in our region and that keeping our schools as safe as possible will take a community-wide effort,” said Klassen.

“It’s important that we maintain the Public Health measures that will reduce the spread in our communities. Fewer cases in our community means fewer cases in our schools.”