Kids are acquiring COVID mostly at home, not in school: Top doc

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While children in Toronto are testing positive for COVID-19 at a slightly higher rate than in previous weeks, schools are not driving the increase, says the city’s chief medical officer.

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That was one of the messages that Dr. Eileen de Villa shared Monday in a presentation to the Board of Health.

“The most common source of infection at this time amongst children is household transmission,” said de Villa.

She added later that in this school year, “we have not seen a significant amount of (in-school) transmission.”

To illustrate this point, de Villa told an anecdote about one family’s experiences with the virus.

When a parent tested positive for COVID-19, the rest of the family — another adult and three kids — all subsequently tested positive, although they did not have symptoms.

“All three of their (school) cohorts were dismissed, roughly 60 children required isolation,” de Villa said of the three kids who were exposed. However, none of those kids went on to test positive.

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“No additional cases were identified in the school cohort,” de Villa added

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It was also explained that not all of the eligible family members had been vaccinated.

“It certainly highlights the importance of vaccine for those who are eligible, especially those who are in regular and direct contact with school-aged children,” said de Villa.

During the meeting, de Villa also said she believes the provincial government should add COVID-19 to the list of mandatory vaccinations required for school kids.

News that September’s school re-openings are not in fact driving transmission may surprise some parents who have grown accustomed to handwringing over COVID-19 in schools, but it is consistent with past statements from public health.

When Ontario schools closed in April, de Villa, her Peel Region counterpart, Dr. Lawrence Loh, and then-Ontario top doctor Dr. David Williams all stressed that in-class transmission was negligible and not the reason for school closures at that time.

Rather, it was a decision based on broader community concerns.

Provincial numbers reporting what they label as “cases in schools” does not mean those cases were acquired in the school setting, just that someone testing positive for the virus has also been present in the school setting.


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