Medical Officer of Health implores residents to watch for mild COVID-19 symptoms

The main office of Hastings-Prince Edward Public Health in Belleville, ON. (Google Images/Dave Dodgson/HPEPU staff)

JASON PARKS

STAFF WRITER

The Medical Officer of Health for the Quinte area is stressing the decision to close CML Snider elementary school last week was one undertaken by the school board and the community can be reassured that a temporary school closure does not imply that this case poses any unusual or heightened risk to the local community.

Classes at CML Snider resumed on Monday after all necessary contact tracing had been undertaken and staffing coverage at the school was at appropriate levels.

Dr. Piotr Oglaza. (HPEPH photo)

During the time of the announcement of the positive case, those staffing levels couldn’t be assured as due diligence and COVID-19 protocols took over.

In terms of closing CML Snider, Hastings Prince Edward Public Health’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Piotr Oglaza confirmed to the Gazette the decision to close the school was independent of Public Health and wasn’t something that was recommended or required by the local health agency.

The school resumed classes on Monday and in a letter to parents on Saturday, Hastings Prince Edward District School Board Director of Education Sean Monteith confirmed when he made the decision to close the school last Thursday, “It was because neither I, nor the principal, Tina Jones, could be assured that there would be enough staff to teach and safely supervise students as we awaited contact tracing by public health.”

Dr. Oglaza said, as with all lab confirmed cases, contact tracing was initiated  as soon as the positive case at CML was confirmed. 

“In this situation we were able to contact everyone within 12 hours. We identified the individuals that had increased risk with close contact as well as those at the school that were not going to be infected,” the doctor said, adding further there are varying protocols dependant on exposure and risk factors. 

At the time, there were rumours the case at CML could be traced to an outbreak somewhere else in the community however Dr. Oglaza didn’t have that information and added providing details about the contact pathology wasn’t something HPEPH is undertaking. 

“That’s something we are very strict about, we are not making those connections publicly and identifying people,” he said. 

While Thursday’s confirmation of a COVID-19 positive case at a school in Prince Edward County was a first, it’s not the first instance at a school in the Quinte area. 

Dr. Oglaza credited local school boards and the attention to details as well as the dedication of workers and staff inside the schools. Dr. Olgaza said that, so far, there’s been no evidence of tranmissions in school settings and that contact tracing has proven COVID-19 transmission through close contact and household settings. 

“That’s very much the impact and effect of all the hard work of the boards and their staff,” he said. “The screening, strict charting and cohorting, ensuring masking, that students and staff are washing their hands regularly. The correlation between the low number of cases and adhering to good practices should maintain confidence to continue education in a school setting.”

Overall and despite a recent uptick in case loads, Dr. Oglaza has confidence the community will continue to make the right decisions and beat back the coronavirus scourge. 

“Our communities have been very diligent, adapting quickly to everything been asked of them and you can tell from numbers overall this region has been spared so far,” He said, “That’s not just luck. That’s hard work from everyone in the community and we thank them for that work and that they continue with measures and efforts.

In terms of a message he would like to reinforce, Dr. Oglaza said saying avoiding unnecessary travel and staying put when unwell were still messages that need to be broadcast.

“One thing to emphasize is the importance of staying home when sick even when you might only be mildly symptomatic,” Dr. Oglaza said “That’s the first critical step of self monitoring.”