Sheona Kloostra first heard the news there was a case of COVID-19 at Twin Lakes Secondary School from her older son, who was home sick from school today, after he learned about it on social media.
A positive case of COVID-19 has been confirmed in a teacher at Twin Lakes, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) said this afternoon.
Kloostra’s younger son is a Grade 11 student at the school.
“I think it would have been nice for the school to notify the parents prior to the media announcing it,” said Kloostra.
The health unit sent a release to all media at 1:50 p.m. on Tuesday, and spoke about the case during their weekly media call, which is livestreamed on Facebook.
Kloostra said she received the email to parents shortly after 2:30 p.m.
“My understanding is, the kids knew sometime after 1 p.m. They were talking about it in their personal chats and they had the name of the teacher and were sharing that. You can’t help that; that’s the nature of social media and the nature of minors who don’t understand the consequences of breaching someone’s privacy,” said Kloostra.
Kloostra is a nurse in Orillia, and understands the need to keep identifying patient information private. She says she told her sons to stop sharing the personal information about the teacher.
“It was spread pretty quickly on social media, and that’s the most unnerving piece. People rush to judgment and that’s the biggest fear. The stigma attached to it is, ‘What did you do wrong?’ It should never be about that,” said Kloostra. “They were asymptomatic... so I think this teacher should be commended for having the foresight to seek a test.”
Kloostra said she doesn’t intend to seek tests for her family solely due to the Twin Lake case, however her family has been tested on multiple occasions as a precaution due to a variety of factors, including her oldest son’s current illness.
“I’m a front-line worker, his dad is a city politician and (her sons) both work at McDonald’s so they have exposure (to the public),” she said.
She also said she has no concerns about sending her youngest son back to Twin Lakes.
“Random and regular testing is how we’re going to stay on top of this virus,” she said. “We can’t live in a bubble. COVID is here and we need to learn how to live with it.”
Dr. Charles Gardner, SMDHU’s medical officer of health, told media on Tuesday the Twin Lakes case is not included among the two new Orillia cases reported by the health unit on Tuesday (a man between 65 and 79 years old and a woman between 45 and 64 years old).
Gardner said that as the teacher wore full personal protective equipment including a face mask and face shield and maintained physical distancing in the school setting, that the risk was low for transmission.
“With this knowledge all indications are that students, and other school staff would not be considered at higher risk than the general public, and will not need to be tested or quarantined,” he said.
The infected individual, who is asymptomatic, is self-isolating at home.
“We are in contact with the individual and from the information gathered so far all indications are that the virus was contracted in the community, and not in school,” said Gardner.
According to a letter sent to Twin Lakes parents by principal Dan MacDonald, the school will remain open and no further action has been recommended by the health unit at this point.
“The school has been cleaned since the individual was last in the building on Sept. 15, and is undergoing additional enhanced cleaning,” wrote MacDonald. “We will continue to take direction from the health unit and will communicate with you further as necessary.”
All parents of Twin Lakes students were sent the letter, as well as staff members. The teacher has not been identified officially, even to the students in that teacher’s class.
“They don’t know that from us, or the school,” said Gardner. “There are probably some circulating rumours but we have not announced that.”
“We protect privacy,” he added.
Gardner also said some students chose to go home or were picked up by parents, however students were not sent home by the school.
According to the province's data on schools and daycare centres, there are 29 total school-related cases of COVID-19 Ontario-wide as of Sept. 15 (14 staff, nine students, six unidentified) and they are spread across 27 different schools. On Tuesday, Gardner said the Twin Lakes case was just reported today, and therefore is not part of the province’s numbers.
“We are working closely with all our schools and school boards to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 as much as possible, and I urge families to do their part, too,” said Gardner. “We are conducting our investigation on possible exposures. So far, we have not identified any close contact.”