Catholic school division defends communication after three COVID-19 cases connected to St. Mary

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With the recent set of COVID-19 cases at Ecole St. Mary High School, an outbreak declaration for the school was post-dated to Sunday, Oct. 24 on the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) outbreak notice board.

According to director of education Lorel Trumier, the division is still learning as they go through the pandemic. She explained that public health first identifies the case and then contacts the school to collect the information that is needed.

That information includes identifying the student’s class or cohort to begin contact tracing. Public health then discusses with the division what to do next.

“There are many steps that we are taking to communicate and inform our families and our parents in the processes that we pursue,” Trumier said.

 “Immediately we get information from public health that we need to share with the families. We have communicated that we will be sharing that through the Edsby portal,”

The division has added an additional step of contacting families affected by phone and advising them that they should expect to be contacted by Public Health. They also put the message on the Edsby platform as a way to communicate.

“ A letter will go directly to the cohort that specifies any kind of instruction that is required from public health,” Trumier said.

The next step sees it going out in a school-wide notification to the portal. A voice message also goes out to families affected through the school messenger system. Their next step is to work with media partners to get the message out as well as posting to the Catholic School Division’s website.

“There are many steps that we are taking to communicate and inform our families and our parents in the processes that we pursue,” she said.

For example, when the first case was identified on Sunday, Oct. 25 there was only one known case.

“You can’t call that an outbreak yet because there is only one confirmed case,” she said.

Within 36 hours a second case was identified in the same household.

A third positive case of COVID-19 was identified on Tuesday evening at St. Mary by the SHA. The case is not related to the cases identified on Sunday evening.

Later, an outbreak was declared and dated back to Oct. 24 by the province. An outbreak is announced any time two or more positive cases are confirmed in non-household settings. Outbreaks are publicly posted for hospitals, long-term care and integrated facilities, personal care homes, correctional facilities, shelters, group homes, communal living settings, churches, daycares, schools, workplaces, mass gatherings and events.

Trumier explained that the division is trying to be as transparent to the larger community and school community while trying to protect privacy.

 “It’s very fluid so the case on Sunday night we were very up front that there was a case and that potentially there is a second case. You know we said it right away so that people would know the conditions,”  Trumier said..

She explained that the situations differ and this was a unique one. According to the press release, the individual who tested positive was present on Oct. 16. All students and staff are advised by public health to monitor for COVID-19 symptoms until Oct. 30 and not come to school if they are sick and to call 811 for further advice. With the other case not being in the same household as the first two, it was important to communicate that information.

“Because an outbreak does sound as if it is widespread, where in this particular it was only known after it was two and it was from the same household. No other further actions were required because we had already taken the precautions that were needed and those cohorts were already moved to distance learning for that two week period,” Trumier said.

-With files from Kelly Skjerven, Prince Albert Daily Herald