Listowel Banner Local News News Wingham Advance Times

Northside Christian School in Listowel closed until December due to COVID outbreak

Klassen asks residents to be polite when contacted by HPPH staff

HURON-PERTH – Northside Christian School, located at the north end of Listowel, has been declared in outbreak and closed until at least Dec. 1.

Huron Perth Public Health (HPPH) will determine when the outbreak is over and when the school can be reopened.

There is one confirmed case with some probable cases connected to it, therefore, HPPH has reason to believe there was transmission in the school setting.

Dr. Miriam Klassen, Huron-Perth’s medical officer of health, said the reason the whole school was shut down was that they were not able to separate a cohort.

“When and if schools follow all the Public Health measures about how students enter classes, stay within just one class, keep their physical distance, wear the masks – when all those measures are followed then you can identify that there is a cohort – just this class and that staff that were potentially exposed,” she said.

“However, in the case of this school, we weren’t able to nail down the cohort so for that reason we have to consider the entire school a cohort.”

There have been confirmed cases reported at other elementary schools across the region, including Anne Hathaway Public School and St. Ambrose School in Stratford, and a few private Christian schools in Huron and Perth.

In the case of Anne Hathaway, it was determined that the person did attend school while infectious, and therefore a cohort has been dismissed. HPPH continues its contact tracing work and following up with affected families

A case has also been identified related to Goderich District Collegiate Institute. The cohort has been dismissed and an investigation has been started.

“That is the first Huron school-related case I can recall,” said Klassen. “All through the pandemic there has often been a focus on which municipality the last case was from. That always worried me because I worry they also interpret that message to be – well then, this other municipality is OK. I think that’s the wrong approach to take. I think we all have to behave as though COVID-19 is in every municipality and every person we are encountering could be unknowingly transmitting it and we have to be vigilant at all times. What we have seen in the second wave is how rapidly cases escalate when people let their guard down.”

Provincial data continues to show that COVID-19 is not transmitting rapidly in schools. Eighty-six per cent of schools have no reported active cases presently, only four schools across the province are closed due to outbreaks.

As of Nov. 26, there have been a total of 293 cases in Huron-Perth, with 31 cases currently active – 11 in Stratford, 14 in Perth East, five in North Perth and one in North Huron.

Cedarcroft Place Retirement Home in Stratford remains in outbreak and two community members are in hospital due to COVID-19.

At Cedarcroft, there have been 44 confirmed cases in residents and 20 cases in staff. Among residents there have been 11 deaths. Two cases remain active and 31 have recovered.

Klassen said the active cases from Cedarcroft are in hospital but it is not because of COVID symptoms, it is because they were decanted to receive medical care which was not available at Cedarcroft during the outbreak.

Of the 25 residents who were transferred, 22 remain in area hospitals.

Klassen concerned residents are becoming complacent

Klassen is concerned people in Huron-Perth are becoming complacent about following Public Health recommendations.

“We are in the midst of the second wave and need everyone’s participation to flatten this curve,” she said.

“I’ve said this before, it’s not up to any individual or family or organization or sector or level of government. It’s something that everyone has to contribute their part.”

Klassen said if people can’t work together to stop the chains of transmission the region will be in orange alert level longer than it needs to be.

“That will affect our local businesses longer than must be,” she said.

“I’m urging everyone to hang in there – follow our Public Health measures – and let’s get our region back to green.”

Klassen asked residents to be polite to HPPH staff when they phone.

“We would like everyone to know that HPPH staff have been working very hard and doing their very best to mitigate what is happening,” she said.

“It is not OK to be rude to them if they call you – we need everyone rowing in the same direction to stop the spread of COVID-19. We are working for you, not against you. The staff who are working here and calling you also have kids in schools and parents in long-term care homes – they are also experiencing the pandemic like you are. Public Health staff are people, too.”

She said rudeness to staff has been an issue on and off throughout the pandemic. There have been certain times when changes or events happened that really seemed to lead to an increase in rudeness and uncivil behaviour but then it settles down.

“For the most part we try to deal with that internally because we all understand that this is difficult, nobody wants to get a call from HPPH that you’ve been identified as a contact or a case,” said Klassen.

“Often when people are calling us it’s because this entire situation is stressful and I think we all get that, however, lately staff are working very long hours with this surge … Speak politely with staff and often when people are facing challenges to comply with recommendations around isolation – we’ll look for ways to help support people and we’ll connect you with other supports if needed.”

Colin Burrowes is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with the Listowel Banner. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.