Eighteen schools in the Lambton Kent District School Board and eight St. Clair Catholic schools currently have a confirmed COVID case in either a student or staff member.
That means 30 per cent of all district schools have at least one case of COVID as of Sept. 28.
For the public board the numbers represent 29 per cent of schools with the virus and 41 cases total. Five schools have four or more cases including Chatham schools Tecumseh Public with seven and McNaughton Avenue with six. The latter school has been declared an outbreak.
A pair of Dresden schools, Lambton Kent Composite and Dresden Area Central, are also in outbreak status after COVID spread took place within the school. They have four and one cases respectively.
Tilbury District High School joins them on the outbreak list with four active cases as does the Eben-Ezer Christian School in Chatham with two.
St. Clair Catholic meanwhile has COVID cases in 32 per cent of its schools. There’s nine cases total but Tuesday only one school had two cases, St. Angela Merici in Chatham. Four classes across the school board are currently at home isolating. Gregory A. Hogan in Sarnia remains in outbreak status but is down to one active case.
The Bkejwanong Kinomaagewgamig Elementary School on Walpole Island is also under outbreak.
It’s a rapid rise just one month into the new school year and is making calls for a vaccine for younger kids even more urgent. There was progress on that horizon last week as Pfizer announced they’ll be asking for authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to administer its COVID vaccine to kids aged five to 11.
This comes after the pharmaceutical company says its trials have shown safe outcomes in the young age group.
But it will still be awhile before the shot is available for Canadian children.
“When they have gone through all the work of submitting that (to FDA) they are planning to submit to Health Canada,” says Chatham-Kent Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Colby. “So it’s going to be quite a few weeks yet before we’re able to start vaccinating that group.”
Colby says public health will be bringing the shots into schools once it’s approved for the five to 11 age group, but since this is a ways off there’s no specific plan for the rollout just yet.
While the school cases are rising Colby does say he’s pleased with the lack of outbreaks declared, just five in Chatham-Kent. This means most of the cases are coming from outside the classroom and not due to in-school transmission.
“The cohort system we have is very efficient and somewhat conservative. When we get any inkling of trouble the whole cohort goes home.”
“When you think about the number of kids in a school this is a very effective program at limiting the spread of COVID in a school environment… I don’t like having any outbreaks but we’re in the fourth wave, we’re going to see them. It’s how we deal with them that matters,” says Colby.
Chatham-Kent kids aged 12-17 sit at 69 per cent with their first dose of COVID vaccine and 57 per cent are fully dosed.
Alex Kurial, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Independent