25 students dismissed from Chatham-Kent high school due to COVID-19 case

John McGregor Secondary School in Chatham. March 5, 2020. (Photo by Paul Pedro)

​Chatham-Kent Public Health is reporting one active case of COVID-19 at a secondary school in Chatham-Kent.

The Lambton Kent District School Board was notified of the confirmed case at John McGregor Secondary School Wednesday, just the second day of school.

According to Lambton-Kent District School Board Director of Education John Howitt, approximately 25 students believed to have been contacts of the positive case were dismissed from the school.

“Public Health did access the database of those who are vaccinated and made decisions on a dismissal based on that,” said Howitt. “We are continuing the programming for students who are dismissed and those who aren’t dismissed.”

Chatham-Kent Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Colby said the student that tested positive for COVID-19 was unvaccinated.

“Two cohorts in contact from a bus have been isolated for self-monitoring depending on their vaccine status,” said Colby. “The school experience really depends on people getting vaccinated.”

In Chatham-Kent, youth aged 12 to 17 have a 63 per cent first-dose coverage rate and a full vaccination rate of 51 per cent. CK Public Health reported 18 new cases of the COVID-19 virus Thursday, bringing the total number of active cases in the community to 112.

“This is an opportunity to encourage students to seek vaccination,” said Howitt. “It absolutely has an impact on the stability within the school system for all students if fewer students are dismissed.”

Three schools in Chatham-Kent have been selected by the province to participate in an Ontario government pilot project for planned COVID-19 testing in schools. Ursuline College Chatham Catholic Secondary School, Tilbury District Secondary School and Ridgetown District Highschool will be a part of the project.

“We have not received our kits yet, so the program isn’t active but we will be coordinating everything we do with public health,” said St. Clair Catholic District School Board Director of Education Deb Crawford. “The kits will be in the school and will be voluntary for staff and students.”

The pilot will provide vaccinated and asymptomatic students and staff take-home self-collection kits when they have been identified as a high-risk contact, as part of an identified cohort.

Dr. Colby said a student’s return will be based on a number of factors, with one being test results.

“The fact a person tests negative in the morning does not mean they won’t test positive in the afternoon,” said Colby. “That is the limitation of testing. We have to do better than that.”