19 cases of COVID-19 discovered at Thorncliffe Park PS after asymptomatic testing

By News Staff

Testing of asymptomatic students and staff at Thorncliffe Park Public School has led to the discovery of 19 positive cases of COVID-19 at the school.

In a letter to parents on Sunday, Principal Jeff Crane said 433 tests were conducted at the school on a voluntary basis under a Ministry of Education pilot program to test students and staff without symptoms for COVID-19. Thorncliffe Park PS is the first school that is part of the program.

Tests were conducted on Thursday and Friday last week and initially found 20 cases, but one has since been revealed as a false positive. A total of 18 students and 1 staff member have tested positive over two days of testing.

The Toronto District School Board tells 680 NEWS that 14 classes out of 42 have been asked to self-isolate. Spokesman Ryan Bird says that number includes approximately 275 students and 17 staff members.

Bird added that all students should be prepared since day-one of the school year with their e-learning platform logins in the event of this situation.

On Monday, education minister Stephen Lecce said there is a four per cent infection rate in the school compared to 16 per cent being reported in the Thorncliffe Park community. Toronto Public Health does not believe the school needs to close at this time given the school’s rate of positivity is much lower than the larger community.

“The decision point on sending a cohort or school home is decided by the local public health unit,” said the education minister.

“There is no plan at this time to change that… I appreciate that time, 10 to 14 days, can feel like a lot for a lot of these kids to be isolated but I set out before schools started as a requirement for every school, that they must pivot to online learning [for a 24-hour period].”

Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, also reiterated Monday that the school can remain open given it’s low positivity rate. She added that there is not much evidence that suggests ongoing transmission in the school, but there is within the community. This means children are catching the virus in the community rather than within schools.

Crane said the school will conduct a deep cleaning of the building before school starts Monday morning. Along with other safety protocols including masks and physical distancing, Toronto Public Health has also asked siblings to stay home if one child in the household has symptoms.

“Since COVID-19 continues to spread in the community, finding additional cases in schools from broad testing is not
unexpected at this time,” said Crane.

The school now has a total of 21 cases of COVID-19.

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