Public health declares COVID-19 outbreak at Thorold school

St Charles School St. Charles Catholic Elementary School in Thorold. BOB TYMCZYSZYN / TORSTAR FILE PHOTO

Niagara Catholic District School Board has announced Niagara Region Public Health has formally declared a COVID-19 outbreak at St. Charles Catholic Elementary School in Thorold.

The first case at St. Charles was confirmed on the weekend and resulted in the closure of two classrooms. While it is the practice amongst Niagara school boards not to publicly disclose the identity of positive cases, a COVID-19 online provincial database identified the case as a staff member.

On Tuesday, Niagara Catholic confirmed two additional cases, which resulted in two more classroom closures, bringing the school case total to three. The online data lags behind local reporting and has yet to confirm if those infected are staff or student-related.

St. Charles is the second school within the past 10 days for which public health has declared an outbreak.

An outbreak was officially declared March 8 at Quaker Road Public School in Welland. It has 14 active COVID-19 cases, according to the District School Board of Niagara online database.

Provincial guidelines indicate “an outbreak in a school is defined as two or more lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in school with an epidemiological link, within a 14-day period, where at least one case could have reasonably acquired their infection.”

A press release from Niagara Catholic, issued Tuesday, confirmed that the St. Charles individuals are currently in self-isolation.

“The principal of St. Charles Catholic Elementary School has sent a letter to all students and staff to notify them,” said the release. “Anyone who was exposed to the virus during the individuals’ infectious period has received a message from Niagara Region Public Health through the school.”

The Catholic board also Tuesday confirmed a positive case at Saint Michael Catholic High School in Niagara Falls. It is the only active case at the school listed on the board’s website. The provincial database has not confirmed the identity of the individual.

Over the weekend, Niagara Catholic confirmed two additional cases at Loretto Catholic Elementary School in Niagara Falls. Public Health has not declared an outbreak there.

“Two classes at Loretto Catholic will also switch to virtual learning for the next two weeks,” said the Catholic board.

Loretto Catholic has three active cases, which has resulted in at least two classroom closures. The provincial database identifies all three cases as student-related.

Sean Vanderklis is a Niagara-based reporter for the Niagara Falls Review. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him via email: [email protected]