Toronto school closed until further notice after six test positive for COVID-19, including four variant cases

TORONTO — A Toronto public school in Scarborough has been shut down following a COVID-19 outbreak affecting six people within the school community, including four who have tested positive for a variant of concern.

Toronto Public Health said Monday evening that it is recommending the dismissal of staff and students at Donwood Park Public School, located near Lawrence and Midland avenues.

“Dismissing the school is a precautionary measure to allow TPH to complete an investigation while protecting the school community and prevent further virus spread,” TPH said in a news release.

The Toronto District school Board informed students and staff about the dismissal earlier Monday.

“As they continue their investigation they advise that it’s best to dismiss all staff and students effective tomorrow, really until further notice,” TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird told CP24 Monday night. “Typically that closure would last about 14 days depending on the self-isolation, but we’ll obviously let parents know once we have an official return date.”

Four of the cases are believed to be the result of community spread, Toronto Public Health said.

Bird said it’s not yet clear which variant or variants are involved in the outbreak. He said the decision to close the school for now arises “out of an abundance of caution” in case it may be circulating among the school population.

“When there is an outbreak the rough definition of that is at least two cases that are linked to a school setting, that they believe there may be transmission within that school setting,” Bird said. “So I think that’s among the pieces of information that they’re looking at right now in declaring this outbreak at the school, thinking that it may be spreading within the school.”

The health unit said it has followed up with close contacts of those who are part of the outbreak. It is also recommending testing of the entire school as well as family members of those in the school community.

“TPH reminds Torontonians that variants are spreading in the city and the province. VOCs are believed to be more transmissible. This increases the risk that the virus will spread between people. Faster and wider spread of the virus makes it more likely that more people will get sick, which can increase strain on the health care system,” the statement read. “TPH is releasing this information in an effort to ensure the public remains vigilant in efforts to help stop the spread and as part of the TPH’s response to COVID-19.”

The statement urged people to follow public health advice to help limit the spread of the virus.

The school will be closed until further notice, the Toronto District School Board said in a tweet.

TDSB students returned to in-person learning on Feb. 16 following an extended break from classroom learning due to the second wave.

Toronto Public Health said last week that there have been at least 11 confirmed variant cases within Toronto schools and the city’s medical officer of health has said she expects to see that number rise.

The temporary closure of Donwood Park P.S. is believed to be the first time that a TDSB school has been closed due to an outbreak where variants of concern were involved.

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