Four classrooms closed at Brampton’s Turner Fenton and three Peel elementary schools declare outbreaks of COVID-19
In June, Stephen Lecce was lauded in Peel.
The Minister of Education fronted a provincial takeover of the Peel District School Board in which he dismissed its controversial director of education and sidelined dysfunctional trustees. In a region that voted exclusively Liberal in the 2019 federal election and elected three NDP MPPs in 2018, Lecce rode high on a brief wave of popularity.
But, as the summer rumbled on, a resurgence of COVID-19 kiboshed the feel good factor. Through the warmer months, Lecce was at the podium almost daily, tweaking, changing and promoting his back-to-school plan.
Minister of Education Stephen Lecce
The NDP, in their role as Official Opposition, pilloried him for putting children at risk in what they argued was an under-funded and short-sighted plan to return children to class. Elementary classes, with significantly more students than experts suggested, were among their chief concerns.
As the school year has lurched on, an increasing number of questions have been aimed at Lecce. In the Region of Peel, by now a long identified COVID-19 hotspot, cases in schools have been a constant threat for teachers and students.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported at Ross Drive Public School on August 27, more than a week before students even returned to class. Since then, the pace of new infections has picked up, with as many as 71 schools in the region reporting cases at one point (some have since been resolved).
As of 3 p.m. on October 8, Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board and PDSB are reporting a total of 63 schools in the region with cases.
View COVID-19 Map of Peel Schools in a full screen map
One Brampton high school is leading the pack with an unwanted label. According to a dashboard maintained by PDSB, Turner Fenton Secondary School has four separate cases of COVID-19 and four classrooms have been closed.
Despite its high case rate, Peel Public Health told The Pointer it had not declared an outbreak at the school. A spokesperson said, based on their data, they believe “acquisition was in the community and not in the school.”
The fact cases are being picked up in the community is not surprising.
So far in October, the region accounted for between 12 and 19 percent of Ontario’s cases, despite having roughly 10 percent of its population. On October 1, Peel made up 19 percent of the provincial total with 101 cases. A week later, on October 8, it reported 134 cases, representing 17 percent of the provincial load.
Despite its high case numbers, Peel Public Health’s top medical expert, Doctor Lawrence Loh, has consistently asserted the region is not yet in a second wave. Case numbers, he says, have remained high rather than spiking further upwards, meaning the trajectory of infection does not constitute a second wave.
Regardless of the definition of exactly what is happening in Peel, cases continue to enter classrooms in the region.
Peel's chief medical officer Dr. Lawrence Loh
According to an outbreak list maintained by Peel Public Health, three schools are now classified as being in the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak, meaning the local health unit believes the virus was transmitted between students at the school as opposed to being picked up in the community.
Derry West Village Public School, St. Matthew Elementary School, St. Josephine Bakhita School are all defined as in the outbreak. All three have two confirmed cases each.
An outbreak does not mean a school will be closed, instead, the classification dictates how classes or cohorts of students are dealt with. So far, no schools in the region have been closed.
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