Timmins health official explains concerns around school-related COVID-19 reporting
Published Wednesday, October 14, 2020 10:15AM EDT Last Updated Wednesday, October 14, 2020 10:25AM EDT
SUDBURY -- Porcupine Health Unit officials say COVID-19 outbreaks in schools are only declared and publicly reported if there are two or more cases that are linked within a school.
In a scheduled conference call with news reporters on Oct. 13, they said protecting case identities and their health information is most important to them and that's why they will not be announcing single COVID-19 cases in schools.
"The information that we provide ... immediately can identify an individual and again, can not only identify them, it can actually constitute personal health information," said Dr. Lianna Catton, medical officer of health for the Porcupine Health Unit.
Catton said there is a tremendous amount of blame, judgement, stigma and speculation directed at those who've contracted the disease and she is worried others will be afraid to get tested and testing is what helps the health unit gather data.
"This is so critical to us determining if anyone else in the community may be at risk. It's critical to determining if we need to provide any information publicly to others," she said.
Since the new school year began, there have been two cases of COVID-19 linked to schools in northeastern Ontario, resulting in two classes being sent home to isolate.
Both are in the Cochrane District, one case involved a teacher at a French Catholic elementary school and the other a student at Kapuskasing District High School.
While the medical officer of health announced no new mandates during the call on Tuesday, she asks people to avoid non-essential travel to places outside the region, especially to the big city hotspots.
Catton said a recent significant change is moving from a 14-day clearance period for all cases to a 10-day clearance period for the majority of cases with mild to moderate illness; and to a 20-day clearance period for people with more severe cases, especially those requiring intensive care.