It took just two days for the Lambton Kent District School Board to register its first case of the virus.
A positive COVID confirmation in a student at John McGregor Secondary School in Chatham resulted in 25 students being sent home. They were identified as close contacts of the infected student either through being in the same cohort or on the same bus.
The student who contracted the virus was not vaccinated. No teachers were sent home and the school remains open. A second student was later confirmed COVID positive as well.
Fellow Chatham schools Victor Lauriston and Tecumseh Public School also have confirmed cases of the virus. They too remain open.
“This is an opportunity to encourage people to seek vaccination,” says Director of Education John Howitt. “It absolutely has an impact on the stability within the school system for all students if fewer students are dismissed.”
“Stabilizing the school experience really depends on people getting vaccinated. This is the same message that we’ve been saying for many months,” adds Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Colby.
In Chatham-Kent’s 12-17 year-olds, 64 per cent have one dose and 51 per cent are fully vaxxed. No vaccine has been approved for kids under 12 yet, though Pfizer says they hope to have approval for children as young as five before the year is out.
The decision whether to send other students home or not is based on their vaccination status and what level of contact they had with an infected person.
As for returning to school, negative tests are one indicator but they don’t always tell the whole story.
“It depends whether they’re exposed to a positive case and whether they are symptomatic or not,” says Colby. “One of those factors is test results.”
But he cautions, “The fact that you test negative this morning does not mean that you would not test positive this afternoon. That’s the limitation of testing with regard to using that as a sole criteria for non-communicability.”
Howitt and fellow St. Clair Catholic Director of Education Deb Crawford also explained some of their schools are participating in a provincial pilot program involving rapid antigen testing systems. The kits will be available for students and staff to take home if they’re advised to test by public health.
Ursuline College in Chatham, Tilbury Secondary and Ridgetown High School are the participating schools.
Alex Kurial, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Independent