COVID-19 cases confirmed at three Saskatoon schools
SASKATOON -- Three Saskatoon schools have confirmed cases of COVID-19.
In a letter to parents on Monday, the principal of École St. Peter School said a case of COVID-19 had been diagnosed in a person at the school.
The principal of St. Joseph High School sent a similar letter Monday.
Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools warned parents on Sunday that some students at Holy Cross High School may have been exposed to COVID-19, as a case had been diagnosed in their student's cohort.
"Public Health will only be contacting parents/guardians of students, as well as any staff/visitors/volunteers who may have been in close contact with the case by the evening of Sept. 14," the letter said.
"Risk of exposure for anyone not considered a close contact is very low."
The letter does not specify if the confirmed case is a student or staff member.
Parents are being reminded if their child shows symptoms of COVID-19 to call Healthline 811.
At this time, only the exposed students have been notified and are being required to stay at home to self-monitor.
Grade 9 student Taigh Gariepy said his teacher informed his class of the positive case Monday morning. He said the school told students they are trying to keep the block of students and teachers where the positive case was identified, separate from the other block of students.
“They said they are going to be protecting their side because they wanted to talk to the students about it and they wanted to make sure it was going to be safe over there,” Gariepy said.
As part of its COVID-19 return to school plan, Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools divided the academic year into blocks instead of semesters, where students take two classes per block, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
Gariepy said he’s surprised to see a positive test result at Holy Cross because of the precautions being taken at the school.
“They are doing a lot to keep students safe . Honestly, it is because of how many precautions they are taking at the school, it’s surprising to hear about a positive case,” he said, adding it’s still scary to have a case confirmed at the school.
“Honestly a bit frightening because everyone is pretty close when we come out the front door, everybody stays pretty close and that worries me because anyone could have been really close (to the student) and it could’ve spread and could get even worse.”
According to the Saskatchewan Health Authority, if a positive test result is received by a student or teacher, public health will contact people considered to be close contacts and begin the contact-tracing process immediately.
Further steps could require the cohort the student, teacher, or staff member was a part of to self-isolate at home.
The division said no classes have been cancelled at Holy Cross High School. In its letter to parents the division said it will continue to provide additional information to parents when it is made available.
A COVID-19 case was confirmed at a Saskatoon daycare last week.
While speaking to reporters during an unrelated media availability in Saskatoon, Premier Scott Moe was asked about the positive cases found in Saskatoon schools.
Moe said the public health response would be similar to what’s already been in place in Saskatchewan for the past six months.
“First is to ensure we have testing capacity and accessibility to identify any positive cases, second is to ensure we have the contact-tracing ability in place to identify those who have been in close contact,” he said adding individuals found to be in close contact with a positive case would be notified to go and get tested or self-isolate.
Because the province has seen positive cases of the virus in the community in school-aged children, he said it should come as no surprise that more cases are showing up and testing for the virus continues.
Patrick Maze, president of the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation said while his members knew positive cases of COVID-19 arising in schools was a potential outcome as students returned to school, the timing is a little quick.
“I think this happened a lot sooner than what a lot of people were predicting but at the same point right now we’re hoping that those who have come down with the virus are able to get healthy as quickly as possible,” he said.
With cases confirmed at three Saskatoon schools, Maze said he hopes the province's education ministry provides stricter guidelines around physical distancing and mask-usage.
“Staff are going to be nervous they’re going to have significant concerns and rightfully so. We have expressed our concerns to the ministry and we’ve been public about our concerns and hopefully this might be what inspires government to do something more drastic about class sizes and better social distancing in our schools.”