SUDBURY -- Health officials have sent all students and staff at two New Sudbury schools home to isolate and seek COVID-19 testing after five positive infections involving variants of concern were confirmed.

The news was released just after 1 a.m. Wednesday morning that Lasalle Secondary and Cyril Varney Public Schools are being closed until March 4 as a precautionary measure to reduce the further spread of the disease.

Rainbow District School Board said teaching and learning will continue remotely for students at both schools.

Two positive cases have been confirmed at Cyril Varney and three at Lasalle.

The variant of concern's exact strain has not yet been identified. The B.1.1.7. that originated in the U.K. was confirmed in the city on Feb. 5.

"At this time, there is no evidence that the virus was acquired or spread within the school communities, therefore no outbreak has been declared in association with these cases," Public Health Sudbury & Districts said. "Public Health continues to investigate and monitor the situation."

One elementary afternoon bus route, N100, is also affected.

"All staff and students of Lasalle Secondary School, Cyril Varney, and anyone on elementary bus route N100’s afternoon route from Feb. 16 to 18 are advised to self-isolate and seek testing for COVID-19," the health unit said. "Parents and guardians are being provided notice of the school and bus dismissals and will receive public health guidance."

Public health officials will call all who are considered close contacts directly to provide instructions.

This comes on the heels of the stricter self-isolation and daily school screening requirements announced by the Ministry of Health on Tuesday.

Self-isolation is now required for all household contacts of anyone who has at least one COVID-19 symptom.

"Under the new guidance, all household members of an individual with even one symptom of COVID-19 are required to stay home and self-isolate until the individual with symptoms receives a negative COVID-19 test result or receives an alternate diagnosis by a health care professional," the health unit said.

If the symptomatic person does not get tested for COVID-19, everyone in their household must stay home for 14 days from last contact with that person.

Anyone who has a new or worsening symptom of COVID-19—even if only one symptom— must stay home and self-isolate until:

  • They receive a negative COVID-19 test result
  • They receive an alternative diagnosis by a health care professional
  • Or it has been 10 days since their symptom started and they are feeling better

As of Tuesday afternoon, there are 27 active COVID-19 infections in Greater Sudbury after 11 new cases were confirmed. Since the pandemic began, there have been 594 positive infections in the Sudbury and Manitoulin Districts, 567 cases have been resolved, including 12 deaths. Since Jan. 15, there have been 10 COVID-related fatalities. The most recent happened on Feb. 13 and was connected to the outbreak at the Pioneer Manor long-term care home.