Kingston’s Medical Officer of Health (MOH) Dr. Kieran Moore is asking certain students to consider testing for COVID-19 before returning to their in-person classes this month.
“Our goal is to have a safe reopening both for staff and students…and for parents and families,” Dr. Moore said on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. “Have you travelled outside Kingston Frontenac Lennox & Addington (KFL&A)? If you have, your risk for acquiring COVID is much higher.”
The MOH is encouraging any students that have travelled outside the KFL&A Public Health region, or had travellers in their home, to monitor themselves for COVID-19 symptoms. Students are also instructed to use the Ontario government’s online screening tool. He added that having contacts with people outside your household also increases COVID-19 risk.
“If you develop any symptoms compatible with COVID-19,” or if a test is recommended by the tool, he said “please get tested well before class starts. It typically takes at least 24 hours to get the results back, sometimes 48.”
Elementary students in the KFL&A Public Health region are scheduled to resume in-person classes on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. Secondary students are expected to return Monday, Jan. 25, 2021.
“Get tested so that we don’t have any spread of COVID-19 within our schools, and minimize the risk within those environments,” Dr. Moore said.
Students have been at home participating in virtual learning since winter holidays ended on Monday, Jan. 4, 2021, rather than returning immediately to class. This is part of the Ontario government’s Provincewide Shutdown introduced on Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020, in an effort to slow the rapidly rising case counts of COVID-19.
Some Ontario educators have called on the government to extend virtual learning and further delay the return to class. Ontario Premier Doug Ford said on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021 that the option would be considered in the coming days.
Local COVID-19 update
Dr. Moore said it remains to be seen whether the KFL&A region will register a “holiday bump” in cases, as a result of people gathering during the winter holidays. Public Health reported 12 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021, though Dr. Moore said the vast majority of them were among high-risk contacts of known cases that had already been in quarantine.
“They’ve come from this pool of around 253 individuals that we’re monitoring for 14 full days to see if they develop any symptoms compatible with COVID-19. So, the situation seems controlled as of now,” he said Tuesday. Five further cases were reported on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021.
The rate of infection for KFL&A is around 23.5 cases per 100,000, per week, he said, which is relatively lower than other high-risk areas of the province such as the GTA and southwest Ontario.
“The biggest risk for anyone in our community is if you have travelled outside of KFL&A,” he said. “Please monitor your symptoms closely, or if you’ve had contacts outside of your household.”
For the latest details on COVID-19, see Kingstonist’s Quick Reference Guide or the KFL&A Public Health dashboard.