COVID-19 School Outbreak
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When a COVID-19 positive case is identified in a school or childcare centre, an investigation takes place to determine if other students or staff could have been affected and need to isolate.
If there are, a dismissal will take place. Case investigators will dismiss all the cohorts affected, whether it be the bus cohorts, before and after school program cohorts, etc.
Looking for information on COVID-19 cases in schools*?
Visit the school board's website:
- Windsor Essex Catholic District School Board
- Greater Essex County District School Board
- Conseil scholaire Viamonde
- Conseil Scolaire Catholique Providence
*The WECHU does not report on individual COVID-19 cases by school. This information is reported by each school board. The WECHU, however, does report number of outbreaks in schools.
Dismissals and Outbreaks
Having a dismissal in a school/childcare centre does not mean that there is an outbreak.
An outbreak is declared when two or more COVID-19 cases are identified in the school/childcare centre in a 14-day period; and, at least one of these cases acquired the infection while in the school/childcare centre.
An outbreak can be declared in one cohort (e.g., a class) or in the entire school/childcare setting. See section on “what is a school outbreak” for more information.
Anyone affected by a dismissal due to a case, or a dismissal due to an outbreak will receive a letter from the WECHU with specific instructions to follow. It is very important that parents and guardians take the time to read this letter as it has all the information they need.
To view any current schools or childcare centres in outbreak, visit our Local COVID-19 Data page.
If you / your child are part of a school/childcare outbreak, you will receive communication from the school and the Windsor Essex County Health Unit with directions regarding self-isolation and testing. This communication may come as a letter or voicemail from the school. It is very important that you follow the instructions of the dismissal letter you are provided.
Practice good hygiene
To reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the home, good cleaning and hygiene should be used. Members of the household should:
- Wash their hands often, especially after caring for anyone isolating due to COVID-19, or has symptoms of illness
- Regularly clean and disinfect items in the house that are touched frequently such as toilets, sink taps, doorknobs, and light switches
- Use tissues when they cough or sneeze and immediately throw them away into a garbage bin lined with a plastic bag for easy removal
Take care of your mental health
Coping with public health measures related to COVID-19 can cause stress and anxiety for students, staff, and their families. An outbreak can cause fear and increase this stress. It is important for you to find ways to remain calm and find answers to your questions from credible and reliable sources. Your public health unit is a credible and reliable source.
For resources and information to help you, please visit the mental health section of our website.
An outbreak will be called if two or more COVID-19 cases are confirmed (by lab test) in students, staff, or visitors within the school in a 14-day period. At least one of these cases should be believed to have been infected while in the school, or during a school activity. This may include school transportation and before-school and after-school care programs.
COVID-19 school outbreaks can only be declared by public health under the direction of the local Medical Officer of Health. When a school outbreak is declared, local public health will provide direction and support to the school, including direction for cleaning, disinfection, isolation, and testing. An outbreak can only be ended by public health, and directions will be given to the school community at that time.
In an outbreak, public health may dismiss the whole school, or certain groups of students (cohorts). The affected cohorts will get communication from the health unit through the school.
Partial school dismissal
During an outbreak, the school may stay open while some classes are sent or kept at home (dismissed). Public health will continue to work with the school community to make sure that the health and safety of staff and students is the top priority. During a partial school outbreak, the health unit may tell the school to:
- Increase symptom screening
- Restrict visitors and their movement within the school
- Restrict movement between staff and students
- Restrict or stop school activities
- Further increase cleaning and disinfection
- Further increase signage and education for staff and students
Students and staff who are part of the dismissed cohorts will hear from public health for testing and self-isolation.
Whole school dismissal
A school outbreak may require all students, teachers, and staff be sent home (whole school dismissal) in addition to closing the whole school. This decision will be made by the Medical Officer of Health based on information about the confirmed cases in the school. Whole school dismissal may be needed to help prevent further spread (contain) of an outbreak when it has spread through the school.
Outbreak measures during a whole school dismissal may include:
- Recommending the self-isolation of all staff, students, and visitors
- Recommending all staff, students, and visitors get tested for COVID-19
- Closure of the school
- Cleaning and disinfecting of the school
Declaring the outbreak over
The Health Unit will make the decision that an outbreak has ended (been rescinded) based on the following:
- at least 14 days have passed from the last outbreak-associated case in the school (including students, staff, visitors, or anyone else in the school during the outbreak period)
- All people with symptoms have been tested AND received their test results
- There are no health and safety concerns around reopening the school
Note: An outbreak does not need to be over for public health to allow cohorts to return to school. All students might not return to school at the same time, based on their test result or isolation dates.