Number of weekly COVID-19 cases at Ottawa school dropped in October

OTTAWA - Teachers and students outside École Horizon-Jeunesse in Ottawa Thursday Sept 3, 2020. Thursday was the first day of school for elementary kids at the French Catholic school board. Tony Caldwell

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Critics say it’s reasonable to assume fewer infections are being detected at schools since the province relaxed self-screening rules on Oct. 1.

Before then, children with minor symptoms like a sniffling nose were not allowed at school until they tested negative for COVID-19 or waited 14 days.

When the screening rule changed, the number of children tested plummeted, declining by 80 per cent in two weeks in the middle of October, according to Dr. David Fisman, a University of Toronto epidemiologist who posted the information on Twitter.

Children can have COVID-19 with no symptoms or only mild symptoms. There is no general testing conducted of students at schools to estimate how many of them have the virus.

During meetings this week, trustees at Ottawa’s two English-language school boards were presented with a variety of statistics and reassurances by staff that schools were doing well during the pandemic’s second wave.

At the Ottawa Catholic School Board on Tuesday, a staff member said only 0.03 per cent of students had active cases of COVID-19 and the total number of students who had contracted the virus since classes began was only 0.3 per cent.

That’s significant, she said. “Those are remarkable numbers.”

The calculations were based on the board’s total enrolment. However, about one-quarter of students aren’t in school because they have chosen to study online at home.

And, while the numbers appear tiny, the proportions are similar to overall Ottawa numbers that have made the city a COVID-19 hot spot.

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