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Lo-Ellen outbreak: Public Health Sudbury ‘thoroughly investigating’ COVID-19 cluster

Health unit hopes to ‘further limit the spread of infection’
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Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School. (File)

Updated Oct. 26 at 2:30 p.m.

Following the declaration of a COVID-19 outbreak associated with Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School, Public Health Sudbury & Districts says it is working closely with school authorities and “thoroughly investigating” the outbreak, the first at a local school.

It’s doing so to “monitor the outbreak, further limit the spread of infection, and ensure ongoing measures are maintained to protect students and employees,” said a press release sent out by the health unit Monday afternoon.

Three COVID-19 cases have now been reported at Lo-Ellen since late last week.

As per provincial direction, a school outbreak is declared if there are two or more cases in a school that are linked and if there is evidence that at least one case could have been infected in the school, said the health unit.

The cases and the outbreak declaration have required certain classes to be dismissed. Other individuals with exposures in specific parts of the school also have been notified and directed to self-isolate.

The school has sent all parents and guardians a notice about the outbreak, which includes additional Public Health guidance. 

All individuals who have been directed to self-isolate have been issued a letter from Public Health and these individuals are also being contacted directly by Public Health staff.

“It is essential for staff, parents and students to continue screening for COVID-19 symptoms every day before school,” said Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, Medical Officer of Health with Public Health Sudbury & Districts. 

“Stay home if you have symptoms and get tested, if needed. Parents and guardians play an important role in the health of our school community and small actions, such as asking questions when unsure and being more cautious than usual, will go a long way to keep COVID-19 out of schools and our community.”

“As always, we are monitoring the school population closely for any signs of COVID-19, remaining vigilant, and following the guidance from Public Health,” said Norm Blaseg, Director of Education for Rainbow District School Board. 

“The health and safety of students and staff remains our first and foremost priority and we continue to implement all health and safety protocols, including enhanced cleaning and disinfecting of the entire school. Updated information will be posted on the Board’s COVID-19 Advisory Section at the following link. We thank parents/guardians, students, and staff for their ongoing patience and understanding as we work together to keep everyone safe.”

Actions taken

  • Affected students and staff have been directed to self-isolate.
  • Parents or guardians of affected students have been notified of the outbreak and advised of public health measures to follow.
  • Public Health has contacted affected staff and parents or guardians of students who are considered close contacts.
  • Public Health is thoroughly investigating this outbreak and providing guidance to the school.
  • The school has performed additional cleaning.
  • At this time, no school transportation or any before-or-after school programs are affected and required to be dismissed. The Public Health investigation is ongoing.

Management of an outbreak in a school

An outbreak in a school is declared by Public if there are two or more cases of COVID-19 in a 14-day period that have some link with each other, and with evidence that infection occurred at the school. An outbreak could be declared for a portion of the school (for example, individual classrooms) or for the entire school and could result in specific classrooms being dismissed or the entire school closing.

When an outbreak is declared in a school by Public Health Sudbury & Districts, the school will communicate this information to parents or guardians immediately. Information will also be posted on school websites. Public Health will support the school and provide direction directly to all affected students, for example, to stay home and self-isolate and to seek testing if advised. Public Health also works closely with the school to further investigate and control the outbreak and determine when it has ended.

Individuals who are identified as close contacts of a case in a school setting will be directly contacted by Public Health Sudbury & Districts. Public Health will call these parents or guardians, as well as employees, to provide direction.

Schools and school boards are required to communicate details regarding any closures to their school communities.

Original story:

A third student at Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School has tested positive for COVID-19, and an outbreak has now officially been declared at the school, the Rainbow District School Board announced this morning.

The board announced the new case in a letter to parents and guardians Monday. You can read the full letter here.

However, Public Health Sudbury & Districts has indicated that there is no evidence of widespread transmission at the school at this time.

For this reason, Lo-Ellen remains open for in-person learning.

A fifth class has now been asked to self-isolate, and cannot return to in-person class until Nov. 6. 

These students, their parents/guardians and relevant staff have been notified by the school. In addition, the isolation period for a previous class has been extended to this date.

Public Health will directly contact all of the parents/guardians of students and all school personnel who have been identified as close contacts.

According to the Province of Ontario, an outbreak in a school is defined as two or more lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in students and/or staff in a school with an epidemiological link, within a 14-day period, where at least one case could have reasonably acquired their infection within the school.

The first two cases at Lo-Ellen were announced late last week.