|A little over two months into the school year, the fear of a widespread shutdown like Canada experienced in the spring has not materialized. At the same time, writes CBC’s Jessica Wong, schools have not been immune to COVID-19. Although health and safety measures seem to have helped, health experts are raising additional concerns, especially as winter approaches.
According to the most recent weekly COVID-19 epidemiology report from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), schools and child-care centres accounted for the highest number of outbreaks in September, and the second-highest in October (after long-term care and retirement residences). British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec have all had school outbreaks, while New Brunswick has also seen a few individual school-related cases. PHAC considers it an outbreak in a school or child-care centre when there are two or more cases reported, and has noted that 64 per cent of schools with COVID-19 cases had only a single case reported.
Overall, Winnipeg epidemiologist Cynthia Carr said, Canada’s schools have been doing well, but that doesn’t mean they can relax infection control and prevention measures. These have included physical distancing, student cohorts, time spent outdoors, improving ventilation, masking and increased hand hygiene. “We can’t let our guard down,” said Carr, founder of EPI Research Inc. In the coming months, Carr will be keeping an eye on Canada’s influenza rates — if they stay low, as they did during winter in the Southern Hemisphere this year, it will mean less stress for Canada’s hospitals and emergency rooms, she said. As well, since symptoms of the flu overlap with those for COVID-19, Carr noted that kids who experience influenza symptoms will likely need to be tested for COVID-19.