Five positive cases of COVID-19 have now been recorded within the Saskatoon school and daycare systems since students began returning to class last week.
One positive case was reported at Felix Le Chat daycare in Saskatoon last week, with a second case at the daycare reported early this week.
On top of that, three Greater Saskatoon Catholic schools — École St. Peter, Holy Cross High School and St. Joseph High School — have notified parents of a single case at each school.
A student tested positive at Holy Cross High School. In the other cases, it's unclear if it was a student or a staff member.
The student attended Holy Cross for half a day last week, according to a letter shared with parents.
"Due to the block scheduling and safety protocols that are currently in place, the SHA has determined the risk to be very low for our school community and there is no evidence of community transmission. The move to a two-cohort block system and the many safety and sanitation protocols in place have been designed to limit exposure and mitigate risk during these types of situations," the letter said.
"Parents of students in the two affected cohorts have been notified and advised to monitor for symptoms. All students are encourage to use the Daily Self-Assessment Checklist each day before attending school."
Dr. Nazeem Muhajarine, a professor of community health and epidemiology at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, said five cases is an "expected" number given schools only reopened a week ago.
"If you [had] multiples of five, like 20, 25, I think that would be a huge concern," he said.
The Saskatchewan government has not mandated caps on class sizes or cohorts, resulting in different class sizes across schools. Muhajarine said anybody seated within six feet of a confirmed case should be considered a close contact.
He also stressed the importance of wearing masks and quick communication from school boards once a case is confirmed.
"Somebody who spends all day in a school, in a classroom, they are going to come across multiple people who are within the range of where the droplets can be passed on," Muhajarine said.
Premier Moe reacts to school cases
Premier Scott Moe seemed unsurprised by the positive cases on Tuesday.
"We had positive cases in those age demographics previous to children returning to school as well. With 180,000 students that are returning to school this past week and next week, there will be cases from time to time," Moe said.
"[Eighty-seven] percent of the people in Saskatchewan have been able to work throughout our response to this pandemic, and we have been able to control the spread of this virus reasonably well. I suspect that those same measures that we are using in the broad, broader community are going to be very effective in our schools."
The Regina Public, Regina Catholic and Saskatoon Public school boards said Tuesday they had not recorded any positive cases of COVID-19.
Beginning on Thursday, provincial health officials will issue a weekly update on COVID-19 cases among Saskatchewan's youth.
Extra precautions at daycare, Schools
In a followup letter to parents on Monday, the Felix Le Chat daycare said it could reopen but at a reduced, 50 per cent capacity.
Adults at the daycare will need to wear masks.
Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools said it has hired 15 full time caretakers, adding $750,000 to staff costs. When extra supplies such as disinfectant, hand sanitizer and paper towels are factored in, the total increase in sanitization expenses is estimated at about $1 million so far.
'We all have a role to play'
On Monday, clinical microbiologist Dr. Joseph Blondeau told CBC Radio's Blue Sky that we can expect more COVID cases with the return of school.
"We all have a role to play," Blondeau said. "If we don't, there will be a further escalation."
The letters reminded everyone at the school to go through their daily self-assessment checklist to make sure their child does not show up to school with symptoms.
As well, chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab is cautioning residents to keep their virtual households small as people return to school.
Shahab suggested people should keep their close contacts — anyone they're within two metres of, not including in a classroom setting — to about 10 people.
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