MLHU notices more kids getting COVID, but virtual class “not on the immediate horizon”
An increase in COVID cases among those 11 and under has local health officials concerned, but they’re not saying its time to pull the plug on school.
At a virtual briefing on Thursday, Middlesex-London Medical Officer of Health Dr. Chris Mackie explained the stats, while also noting they don’t believe most of the spread has happened within schools.
“As we reviewed the data to examine whether school opening had any impact on rates in school aged children, we found it had not. But the rates had been high for two weeks prior to school opening,” Mackie said. “The challenging piece of data is that since late August the rates in (children and teens aged) 0-11 and 12-17 have been quite high.”
“We have one single case in anyone under aged 18 in 2020, in that week,” Mackie told reporters in the online briefing. “This year we had 28 cases in the 0-11 group and 14 cases in the 12-17 group.”
Mackie said they’ve brought these concerns to the Chief Medical Officer of Health of Ontario and asked that COVID-19 vaccines be included in the Immunization of School Pupils Act.
“With this number of cases, one thing I’m concerned about is we may see the same thing we did last year where so many teachers are exposed to a child that is ill that we may have operational impacts,” Mackie said. “Our partners in the school boards are looking at how to manage that sort of risk.”
However, he is not ready to change the way kids learn in the first month of the school year.
“I think we’re way too early to be talking about (virtual learning), the level of spread we’re seeing, it’s a relatively low risk population, teachers mainly vaccinated,” Mackie said. “We also know that children being at home also contributes to spread of COVID in the community. You may have unsupervised play, you may have people that have to pool their childcare that may not have masking involved in their home childcare. That’s what we’re seeing in the data, already in August, we’re seeing spread among children when school is not in. Significant spread.”
“We know that (virtual learning has) been a huge burden on children and families to be in remote learning situations,” he added.
There are 204 active cases in the Middlesex-London community as of Thursday.
The health unit declared an outbreak at St. Thomas More Catholic Elementary School after five positive cases were identified. That is in addition to an outbreak at École élémentaire La Pommeraie. The London District Catholic school board now has 14 active cases at eight schools and local French-language boards have four active cases at two schools.
The Thames Valley District school board confirmed new infections at two of its schools on Wednesday night. The latest cases are at Kensal Park French Immersion Public School in London and Oliver Stephens Public School in Woodstock. Thames Valley currently has 15 active cases at 14 of its schools.