Region of Waterloo Public Health has announced the closure of Blessed Sacrament Catholic Elementary School in Kitchener due to a COVID-19 outbreak.
There are currently 19 confirmed cases at the school. On Wednesday morning, health officials also confirmed 142 high-risk contacts within the school setting, but said that number is evolving, as case and contact management continues.
"For the first time this year, we have directed a school to close because of a rapid increase in cases over the last week, and to prevent further transmission." said Waterloo Region's Associate Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Julie Emili, in a media briefing Wednesday morning.
The closure took effect Wednesday, and means there will be no in-person learning for at least 10 days for the school's 340 students.
"All the cases are within students and involves multiple cohorts," said Emili. "One case can involve multiple exposures, but primarily two classroom settings account for almost 70 per cent of the cases."
The request for closure was initiated by the local school board, and officials there have confirmed learning will not be disrupted during the closure. Virtual learning will be fully underway on Thursday, and messaging was sent to parents on Tuesday evening regarding the transition.
To help limit the spread of the virus when the school reopens, health officials are recommending Rapid Antigen Testing and will work with the school board to get those testing kits to families.
"All of the students it'll be offered to will be those not actively symptomatic, not yet vaccinated, and will have completed their isolation period," added Emili. "It's really an extra safety measure, as we return students to in-person learning, but it will optional, not required."
Emili said each individual cohort has a specific isolation period, based on their exposure risk, and will be released on an individual bases. Two extracurricular cohorts have already finished their isolation period, and Emili confirmed no additional cases have been identified. All cohorts will be released by the end of the 10 day closure period.
"I think this was an exceptional circumstance, rather than the norm," Emili added, in regards to the region's overall success with containing the spread of COVID19 among local schools. "We're looking forward to this week when we launch [vaccine] eligibility for the 5 to 11 cohort. We have seen the huge impact of vaccination in many other settings."
Local children between 5 and 11 will start to receive the vaccine on Friday. You can find more information here.