7 test positive for COVID-19 at John Pritchard School; facility moves to level orange restrictions

John Pritchard School outbreak
Additional cases of COVID-19 have been announced at John Pritchard School, prompting public health officials to clamp down on restrictions. Marney Blunt reports.

Update, 1:03 p.m.

Dr. Brent Roussin, the province’s chief public health officer, said later Wednesday there have been six new confirmed cases of COVID-19 connected to the school, bringing the total to seven.

“John Pritchard School has moved to Restricted (orange) on the #RestartMB Pandemic Response System, given the number cases and contacts involved,” the province said in a press release.

Roussin said there were “some students, some staff involved” but wouldn’t specify numbers. He did say it was a single cohort that was affected.

Coronavirus: Six new COVID-19 cases at Winnipeg school, some classes move to online learning
Coronavirus: Six new COVID-19 cases at Winnipeg school, some classes move to online learning

“Masks were in use, I believe, in the classroom and one metre physical distancing,” said Roussin.

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All those affected were asymptomatic at school, but developed symptoms and then got tested, Roussin added.

Roussin couldn’t confirm for sure that the disease spread inside the school as investigation is still happening, but said it was likely.

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“I think when you see that many cases within a cohort, that would be our default starting point.”

Asked how many people are self-isolating because of the cases at the school, Roussin said they didn’t have a number yet.

Original Story: 

A total of five people at a Winnipeg school have now tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Parents whose students attend John Pritchard School on Henderson Highway were told late Tuesday night that there were four newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the school, bringing the total to five, after child who was asymptomatic while attending school was later found positive.

It’s not known if the first case is related to the four new cases.

The school sent a letter telling parents that Grades 6, 7 and 8, the split class of 4/5, and the before and after school program will begin remote learning immediately.

Read more: Faking coronavirus: Winnipeg parent pushes schools to screen kids before being sent home

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“At the present time, public health anticipates that remote learning will continue for these cohorts/grades for 14 days but this may be lengthened or shortened as the investigation continues,” the letter reads.

The school said while it is not allowed to release any identifying information about the case to the community, anyone identified as a close contact will be contacted by Manitoba Public Health.

River East Transcona School Division confirmed the contents of the letter sent to parents and said teachers will be in contact with their students Wednesday.

“The division has been in constant contact with Manitoba Education and have been planning for various scenarios, including this one, since March.”

“The system is working,” Manitoba health minister responds to four new COVID-19 cases in Winnipeg school
“The system is working,” Manitoba health minister responds to four new COVID-19 cases in Winnipeg school

Health Minister Cameron Friesen said he understands that parents might be alarmed, but added a lot of work has been done in to prepare for this moment.

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“Contingency plans are in place, Public Health has done the contact tracing, they worked very hard yesterday to notify parents, to identify the cohorts,” he said.

“So I would say we should not be alarmed to see students sent home out of an abundance of caution, instead we should be encouraged to know the system is working.”

Katherine Lower’s son is in first grade at John Pritchard School. She says knew COVID-19 cases at school were inevitable, but she’s surprised it’s happening after only seven days of classes.

“Well we know it would happen at some point. I thought it would take a bit longer before we had too many cases inside the school,” Lower told Global News. “It was always a concern before we decided to send him back to school this fall that that might happen, but school has been such a huge positive in his life we didn’t want to take that away.”