Teacher with COVID-19 wants schools temporarily closed

Delays in receiving a positive COVID-19 test result, contact tracing and the decision to close a school amidst an outbreak have left one Winnipeg teacher pleading for temporary class suspensions, “in order to let the health-care system catch its breath.”

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 02/11/2020 (696 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Delays in receiving a positive COVID-19 test result, contact tracing and the decision to close a school amidst an outbreak have left one Winnipeg teacher pleading for temporary class suspensions, “in order to let the health-care system catch its breath.”

A public school teacher, who spoke to the Free Press on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal at work, felt “fear, disbelief, (and) guilt,” as well as anger, after testing positive for the virus.

After experiencing first-hand the lag in COVID-19 testing and reporting, those feelings haven’t disappeared, the teacher said.

Five days after receiving a nasal swab, the teacher refreshed the online portal and finally got a positive test result. The following day, the teacher heard from public health about next steps.

“I have lost faith in our health system, it’s obviously overloaded.”
– A public school teacher after testing positive for the virus

Instead of waiting for tracers to do the work, the teacher immediately touched based with contacts, including school administration, colleagues and businesses visited within the last two weeks, to give them a heads up.

Four days later, the teacher’s partner still had not been contacted by provincial officials.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

“It’s taking too long,” said the teacher, who has experienced a sore throat, runny nose, low-grade fever, headache, loss of taste and smell, brain fog, nausea and heaviness in the chest — and believes the virus was likely contracted from a student in their cohort.

The teacher learned some students had tested positive after seeking testing on their own, but even after the teacher — who taught multiple cohorts — tested positive and there was suspicion of community transmission, the school did not immediately announce plans to close.

“I have lost faith in our health system, it’s obviously overloaded,” the teacher said. “The education system is going to end up being a hotspot and the price is going to fall on teachers that are already stressed out and stretched thin, and more people are going to get sick.”

The teacher added there isn’t enough transparency to allow parents to make informed decisions regarding whether it’s safe to send their child to school because of the lag in testing and tracing.

“The education system is going to end up being a hotspot and the price is going to fall on teachers that are already stressed out and stretched thin, and more people are going to get sick.”
– Public school teacher

It has taken 13 days — one day short of a full incubation period — for some school communities to receive notice about an exposure in their building. And in some cases, the province hasn’t posted school exposures on its site once families have been notified.

Fed up with waiting, one parent has created their own spreadsheet of COVID-19 exposures in schools.

The individual, who declined to be identified for fear of their family’s safety, has made public a link to a spreadsheet — aptly named Manitoba K-12 Schools COVID Exposures — that compiles statistics from Manitoba Public Health, news reports and crowdsourcing.

“Every family has been affected with the stress of not knowing when you will get ‘the letter,’” said the parent, who operates the Twitter account @ManitobaSchoolCovidExposures.

Per their count, at least 314 cases of COVID-19 have been identified in Manitoba schools. The spreadsheet also highlights cases that have yet to be reported on the provincial government’s website.

Cases at Collicutt School (Winnipeg School District), Deerwood Elementary (Northern/Remote), Powerview School (Southeast/Interlake) and Waywayseecapo Community School (Parkland/Westman) had not been posted on the provincial site. A provincial spokesperson cited technical issues the government is working on fixing when asked for clarification.

As for lags in tracing, a spokesperson noted the timing of letters is correlated to when an individual seeks testing.

“Work is underway to enhance contact tracing supports to ensure people are contacted as soon as possible,” the spokesperson said, adding people are encouraged to think about where they have been, who they have seen, and who they have had prolonged close contact with in the two days prior to symptoms developing to speed up the process.

Since the start of the school year, there have been outbreaks at John Pritchard School, Arborgate School, Bird’s Hill School, Collège Louis-Riel and Centre Scolaire Léo-Rémillard.

maggie.macintosh@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @macintoshmaggie

Maggie Macintosh

Maggie Macintosh
Reporter

Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.

History

Updated on Monday, November 2, 2020 8:38 PM CST: Adds school districts

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