Back-to-School: Pickering schools report several COVID-19 cases

Several schools in Pickering are reporting cases of COVID-19. Two schools, in particular, have seen multiple cases one week after students returned to the classroom.

In total, five people who have been inside schools have tested positive. The Durham District School Board did not give Global News an indication as to whether the patients were students or staff.

Two cases have been reported at Maple Ridge Public School from the same household, while another two cases have been reported at Pine Ridge Secondary School. The fifth case comes from a staff member at École secondaire Ronald-Marion.

Read more: Quebec reports 377 coronavirus cases at 223 schools

According to the DDSB, the individuals who tested positive wore masks and followed physical distancing protocols.

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Meanwhile, students and staff at all three of the impacted schools are being told to self-monitor for signs and symptoms of the virus.

Hailey Phinnemore, a student at Pine Ridge SS, said she was “a little bit nervous” about going to school Tuesday, despite the school taking “really good precautions.”

Lauren Potts, another student at the school, told Global News, “We still have so long to go and it’s literally only been one week.”

Students aren’t the only ones concerned about the newly reported cases.

Steve Nelson, who picked up his granddaughter at the high school, said he wants to see the school place more space between the students. “I’d like for them to put something in place where the student is more protected in case somebody is infected.”

“If it gets really bad, then for sure (my child) is going to be doing school from home,” said Ray Zerrudl, whose child also attends the school.

Read more: ‘Why is no one talking to us?’: Toronto high school student shares concerns about returning to class

The DDSB told Global News it sent letters to members of the two school communities to inform them of the confirmed cases and to share information from the Durham Region Health Department.

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“In the event of a confirmed case, we are following any additional directions of the DRHD, including additional cleaning and other precautionary measures to ensure that the school is safe for students and staff to attend,” the school board adds.

Durham’s health department says that while the situation is low-risk right now, staff are preparing for a worst-case scenario.

“Schools need to be vigilant,” said Dr. Robert Kyle, medical officer of health.

“We hope there are no outbreaks in schools, but it’s a possibility and as I say, you hope for the best, but you plan for the worst.”

Read more: Staffer at Orillia, Ont. high school tests positive for COVID-19: health unit

Dr. Kyle said that, depending on how bad the situation gets, closing schools isn’t out of the question.

“Let’s hope it doesn’t get there,” he said. “There would need to be pretty good evidence that COVID-19 is being transmitted through a school.”

Although there are multiple cases at both Pickering public schools, Dr. Kyle said the situation is not considered an outbreak, adding those infected were exposed outside the school and there has to be “reasonable certainty that transmission has occurred in the schools.”

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Families can monitor active COVID-19 cases at Durham public schools here.

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