A COVID-19 “variant of concern” has been detected at a Peel District School Board (PDSB) school.
The PDSB operates schools in Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon.
The name of the school has not been disclosed.
On Feb. 11, the Region of Peel said that an individual at a PDSB school has screened positive for a COVID-19 variant of concern (VOC).
As of now, public health officials are sounding the alarm about three current variants of concern that were originally detected in the UK, South Africa, and Brazil.
At a recent press conference, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said that as of Feb. 9, 23 VOCs have been discovered in Peel, with 60 possible more cases under investigation.
The Region of Peel says further testing will confirm which variant is involved in the PDSB case.
“We understand the anxiety families face with consideration to community spread and are taking a vigilant approach to implementing comprehensive enhanced safety measures to ensure the safety of all students and staff within school environments,” said Colleen Russell-Rawlins, Interim Director of Education, Peel District School Board, in a statement.
“This includes daily active screening for all staff and secondary students, enhanced screening for elementary students, and mandatory masking now expanded to kindergarten students. Our safety protocols have proven themselves effective in mitigating the transmission of this variant of concern within the school setting. We will continue to work closely with Peel Public Health to facilitate a safe reopening of schools as we’ve been mandated to do by the province.”
The region says the infection was acquired in the community and has not spread inside the school, adding that anyone exposed to this individual has not become sick to date and it is now over 14 days since the last exposure.
“As in-person learning resumes next week, Peel Public Health has worked with the Peel board to enhance the strong safety measures already used in schools,” the region said, adding that it has reduced bus capacity to make physical distancing easier, rolled out same-day access to testing for those with symptoms, enhanced daily before-school screening for all staff and secondary students and expanded mandatory mask-wearing to Kindergarten students.
The region also says it’s opening pop-up testing sites across Peel this weekend for anyone returning to school and their families. The pop-up sites are intended for those that may have had symptoms in the last week or have been told they are a close contact of someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days.
After-school testing inside schools will also be considered on an as-needed basis.
“Variants of concern are circulating in our community and are expected to be detected in greater number as we continue to bring the second wave of our community under control,” said Dr. Lawrence Loh, Medical Officer of Health, Region of Peel, in a statement.
“Thankfully, strict adherence to precautions can help slow the spread. Peel Public Health continues to work closely with our school board partners to implement enhanced measures to ensure that the opening of schools next week can be done safely and prioritizes the health and safety of the staff and students.