Hamilton boards last in Ontario for schools that haven’t had a COVID-19 case this fall

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Published October 5, 2021 at 12:05 am

Hamilton’s school boards stand last and next-to-last in the province for the percentage of schools that have had at least one confirmed COVID-19 case, according to a biostatistician who breaks down exposure risk with the virus.

The same tracking from Ryan Imgrund suggests two Hamilton elementary schools are in the bottom 10 in the entire province for schools with the highest percentage of students with COVID-19. That includes Tapleytown Elementary School in Stoney Creek, where 5.9 per cent of students are estimated to have COVID-19.

But both the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) and Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board (HWSCDSB) have each reported only a handful of new cases within the last two days. That also falls into line with a decline in active cases across the city.

Students enrolled in Ontario’s public school system presently account for about one-third of the province’s active COVID-19 cases. At this time in 2020, schoolchildren accounted for 10 per cent of cases, but vaccines were not yet available.

With most teenagers and adults now vaccinated, it means the virus will simply spread more slowly to unvaccinated people. Hamilton has more than its share of the latter, with uneven levels of vaccine uptake in the city.

Imgrund, a biostatistician who has earned a huge following during the COVID-19 pandemic, shared graphics about COVID-19 cases in Ontario schools on Monday. Per Imgrund, the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic board has the highest percentage of schools that have seen at least one COVID-19 case early in this school year. An estimated 36.8 per cent of HWCDSB schools have had a case. The HWDSB is second-highest/second-worst in Ontario at 34.6.

It was not clear whom Imgrund was speaking of when he said “experts.”

His data also lists two elementary schools among those with the highest rates. Tapleytown is fourth-worst/fourth-highest at 5.9 per cent, and Central Junior Public School is 10th at 3.7 per cent.

In terms of caseload, the Catholic board says it has 32 active cases (27 students, five staff members). It reported only one new case was on Monday, in a high school student at St. Jean de Brébeuf.

In the public board, the HWDSB reported four new cases. Three are among elementary school students at Huntington Park on the East Mountain. The other was in another elementary school student at Lincoln Alexander, on the West Mountain.

The Ontario government, under Education Minister Stephen Lecce, Health Minister Christine Elliott, chief medical officer Dr. Kieran Moore and local education and public health leaders, has opted for a containment strategy with COVID-19. The stated intent is to avoid school closures for as long as possible.

Parent groups and opposition parties say more funding is needed for smaller class sizes and rapid antigen tests for children who are too young to be vaccinated. Presently, students and parents are asked to screen for symptoms before each school day and stay home if they suspect they are sick. There is no asymptomatic testing, even though studies have suggested that the Delta variant is most likely to spread by people who do not realize that they have it.

Ontario’s non-partisan Financial Accountability Office also recently stated the province’s education spending during the first quarter was 24.1 per cent less than it was in the same span of 2020.

Public health units make the call to declare an outbreak after a confirmed case. Elementary school classes, including those with children too young to receive the mRNA vaccines, or secondary school quadmester cohort, are then switched to remote learning.

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