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Hamilton’s public schools yet to produce COVID-19 case from testing clinics

A health worker conducts a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) for the COVID-19. Javed Dar / Xinhua via ZUMA Press / CP

Two weeks into Ontario’s initiative to test students and staff for COVID-19 across the province have yet to produce any positive test results among Hamilton’s two public school boards as of Tuesday.

Both the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) and the Hamilton Wentworth Catholic District School Board (HWCDSB) say they have deployed several clinics since the order came from the ministry of education in mid-February to test two per cent of student populations.

The latest for the HWDSB at a Stoney Creek secondary school last week produced no positive cases, according to an HWDSB spokesperson.

Read more: No COVID-19 cases from weekend school clinics in Hamilton as province orders weekly testing

“We had 142 attend the clinic on Friday at Saltfleet Secondary. Zero positive [among] 52 staff and 90 students,” the HWDSB’s Shawn McKillop told Global News.
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The clinic was also open to staff and students from seven elementary schools in the surrounding community: Billy Green, Janet Lee, Mount Albion, Gatestone, Tapleytown, Bellmoore and Shannen Koostachin.

The negative results came after the students and staffers submitted to Panbio COVID-19 Antigen rapid tests – which can be analyzed on-site and produce results within two hours.

Meanwhile, the Catholic board held clinics last week at St. John Henry Newman Catholic Secondary and St. Ann Elementary – which had an outbreak in February involving three people.

Twenty-one staff and 22 students were tested at St. John Henry on Friday, while 31 staff and 40 students from a number of feeder elementary schools were tested at that same clinic on Saturday.

So far the HWCDSB has had clinics open for 11 schools to date with three clinics earmarked for the end of this week at St. Eugene Catholic Elementary School between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Thursday and a pair at Cathedral High School on Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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Read more: Survey suggests COVID-19 pandemic taking a toll on Ontario principals

HWCDSB chair Pat Daly characterized turn-out to the clinics so far as “low” and hopes for more staff and students to step up for the voluntary tests in the weeks ahead.

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“We really would hope that more parents would choose for their children to get tested,” Daly told Global News.

“The number of students, I think, is lower than clearly what we hoped for.”

Both of Hamilton’s school boards had their first-ever “targeted” rapid tests for staff and students in mid-February at Bishop Ryan Catholic Secondary and Orchard Park Secondary.

The clinics also turned up no positive cases among the 21 eligible staff and 65 students who participated, according to public health.

Read more: Ontario schools make plans for virtual graduations as COVID-19 pandemic drags on

The next test sites for the HWDSB will be Orchard Park on Friday and Bernie Custis Secondary on Mar. 12.

Neither school board had numbers related to the total number of tests each site could administer but said the vendors applying the tests have capacity for about 50 tests per hour.

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Both boards say schools in outbreaks and in areas public health has identified as having high transmission rates are the targets for testing sites with both the Panbio and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests utilized.

Since the province initiated asymptomatic school testing, data has shown low COVID-19 rates in schools.

Voluntary testing that took place from the end of January into mid-February revealed just 32 cases after 3,706 tests conducted in Peel Region, Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa and Sudbury.

Last month Hamilton’s public school boards accounted for more than 100 COVID-19 cases amid a return to class, with about three-quarters of the cases among students.

Combined, the boards have had four outbreaks since the start of February which includes positive cases among eight people at St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Elementary and three each for A.M. Cunningham Elementary and St. Ann Catholic Elementary.

Read more: Coronavirus: Ontario COVID-19 school testing program finds 0.86% positivity rate among 3,706 tests

The active outbreak in the after-school program at Cathy Wever Elementary has also recorded three cases.

In the last week of February, there were a combined 46 COVID-19 cases in Hamilton schools with 36 of the cases among students.

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