WCDSB reports first new case in over a month; board remains optimistic

WELLINGTON COUNTY – Wellington Catholic District School Board (WCDSB) is reporting its first case of COVID-19 in over a month.

In a Nov. 1 board meeting WCDSB director of education Mike Glazier announced the board saw no new cases of COVID-19 during the month of October.

Since the start of school on Sept. 7, the Wellington Advertiser has been tracking daily COVID-19 cases in schools across the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health (WDGPH) region.

As of Nov. 4, WCDSB reported one new case at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School in Guelph, 34 days since the last reported case, which was reported at Bishop Macdonell High School in Guelph on Sept. 30.

As of Nov. 8, 80.2 per cent of students at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School have been fully vaccinated and 84.8% have received at least one dose.

In an email to the Advertiser, WCDSB communications officer Alison Wilson noted there were two cases initially reported on Oct. 1 in one of the board’s elementary schools.

However, it was determined through the contact tracing process, the individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 were not in school during their infectious period and therefore the two classes were cleared to return.   

Glazier said the board has been cautiously optimistic about the news.

He said while the board is celebrating the news and thanking staff for their diligence in following the public health protocols, they’re also taking a cautious approach.

“We were optimistic that we’d be able to continue that trend for another month but obviously that wasn’t the case,” he said, adding “unfortunately, a few days later we had our first case in some time in one of our high schools.

“Based on what we’re seeing we were very, very happy with the fact that we had that stretch where we had not had any cases within our schools.”

He added while the board is concerned with seeing cases in its schools, he emphasized the importance of in-person learning and keeping students in school.

He said it was something to celebrate but now the board will be working to continue to follow protocols and officials hope they can have another long case-free stretch in  November.

“We’re really grateful for the staff and the way that they have been accepting the protocols and our students and our parents that are also following the guidelines that have been provided and we do believe that it has made a difference,” Glazier explained.

Despite seeing an absence of COVID cases last month, board officials haven’t let their guard down, according to Glazier.

“We do know that we should be seeing cases on the rise within the Province of Ontario as the cold weather comes in, or at least that’s what they’re forecasting,” he said.

He also noted elementary schools continue to have one of the larger concentrations of unvaccinated people across the province, pointing to the yet-to-be-rolled-out vaccination campaign for the five- to 11-year-old demographic.

“As we’re moving indoors in colder weather the students are going to be in closer proximity,” he explained, whether that be within schools, in the community, or in their own home.

“So we need to continue to be cautious in these settings of the present time but we are optimistic that they will be vaccinating and providing those vaccinations for five- to 11-year-olds soon and that will also be a bit of a game changer.”

Glazier said some of the preparation has already started from the conversations with public health as to how the board can best support the efforts of the vaccine rollout for that age group.

“And for us it will mean a quicker return to some of the things we had had in the past,” he added.

He explained the board has been taking a gradual approach to the return of things such as sports and extra curriculars, but if more students become vaccinated it will open up more possibilities for other activities.

“We’re expecting that when that announcement does occur, and they begin the deployment of those vaccinations then it will mean a quicker return to some of the more normal things that we have seen in years past.”

After spending the summer setting guidelines and checking sites at school, Glazier said he believes the board was well prepared for the return to school in September.

“We’re trying our best and I know that it’s a combination of the efforts of our staff as well as our students and our parents and it takes a community effort,” he noted, adding public health has been very helpful in working with the board to determine what practices it can apply to its schools.

“We’re taking a cautious approach and … we’ve been fortunate to have very very few cases throughout this year and none in the month of October.

“We still know that we need to take a cautious approach and maintain the protocols in place to make sure that we can safely get through the rest of this pandemic and come out the other side in a good healthy way for all of our students.”