Out of an “abundance of caution” students and staff at three schools and a nursery have been ordered to quarantine as a result of the coronavirus.
In a statement issued last night (Nov 22), Health Minister Kim Wilson said Primary two students and teachers at St George’s Preparatory School, in addition to the Creative Touch nursery in Pembroke and Paget Primary were ordered to quarantine.
Those affected at Paget Primary include specialist teachers and the students in the school’s autism spectrum disorder classes.
Last week, Year 1 students at Saltus Grammar School were told to stay at home for 14 days as of last Friday, including the families of the children affected.
The Minister confirmed that “two potential COVID-19 outbreaks concerning work places are actively being assessed and managed based on established protocols”.
“Contact tracing is under way and public health guidance has been provided,” said Ms Wilson.
But she did not identify the work places involved.
The Minister also stated that “a lot of misinformation has been occupying social media all weekend concerning our school systems and recent cases”.
“Two of the recent cases have close contacts with children in our school system,” she said.
“Principals and staff of the schools have been informed and instructions provided consistent with public health guidelines.”
Like Saltus, she said testing will be arranged for people connected to the schools involved.
“Some 240 persons were tested over the weekend including students, parents, teachers,” she added.
“Students in the said classes, as well as their teachers are required to quarantine for 14 days.
“Siblings of these children who are unable to live separately from their sibling being quarantined are also asked to quarantine.
“This is only if they are unable to quarantine, albeit living in the same household.
“We are acting out of an abundance of caution.
“Please note that just because persons have been quarantined – this doesn’t mean they are carrying the virus.
“The person may have had a potential exposure to someone currently being assessed. This is a very important distinction.
“We are actively assessing the close contacts for symptoms and awaiting test results,” said the Minister.
“I have full confidence in our epidemiology and testing teams to evaluate the extent of any outbreak and ensure that it is contained.
“We are in control of the situation and are following a well laid out plan to combat any possible outbreak,” she added.
Meanwhile, Education Minister Diallo Rabain said: “The Department of Health has contacted parents and advised that if the siblings of students in the classes.”
“Each household situation is different – some siblings may need to quarantine, some may not need to quarantine and can attend school as normal,” he added.
Staff and parents at the schools were being kept informed via telephone calls, letters and Zoom meetings.
Specialist staff and students were also asked to be tested for the virus, while classrooms will be deep-cleaned and inspected.
Substitute staff will be hired to cover the shortfall in the interim.
The Minister of Education also confirmed that public schools will be open today as health and safety protocols continue.
Prior to the statements made by both Ministers last night, Premier David Burt tweeted: “Many in Bermuda are concerned about possible clusters of COVID-19.
“Please rest assured that the @DoHBermuda team that has effectively managed the Pandemic is acting out of an abundance of caution to ensure that anyone who may have possibly been exposed is quarantined,” he said.
“Please note that ‘Quarantine’ means there is a possibility that someone may have been exposed. This is a precaution so that if the quarantined person does eventually test positive they won’t transmit the virus to others. People who are Quarantined have not tested positive.
“Individuals who are ‘isolated’ are those who have tested positive for Covid-19. 99% of persons who have been quarantined have not ended up testing positive for COVID. Again quarantine is only a precaution. The @DoHBermuda will issue instructions to persons based on risk.
“The @DoHBermuda has been working all weekend to ensure our collective safety,” he added.
“I ask all in Bermuda to trust the @DoHBermuda team who have worked hard for the last nine (9) months to keep this country safe. We have the testing capacity & the technology to contain any outbreak. We must all follow health rules to reduce any possible spread of the virus.”
Highlights of the Minister of Education, Diallo Rabain’s full statement:
The following action are and will be taken for schools that have classes quarantining:
– Principals are placing calls to affected staff and parents of affected students;
– A Department of Health letter has been sent to affected teachers and the parents of students;
– There are Zoom meetings with staff;
– Principals sent letters to staff;
– Specialist staff and students have been asked to get a COVID-19 test;
– Specialists are working with the substitute teachers coming in and are preparing for a Tuesday start; and
– Zoom meetings with parents will be conducted.
We are also taking the following actions within the schools:
· Classrooms are to be deep cleaned and then inspected;
· Substitute staff will be hired to cover;
· The Commissioner of Education will contact the EAP Director to get support for school staff;
· A plan will be establish early this week by Student Services for addressing student concerns.
What will happen on Monday, November 23?
1. Bermuda Public Schools will be open.
2. They will continue with their entry screening and safety and health protocols.
3. Staff and students must be diligent with following safety and health protocols.
We continue to partner with the Ministry of Health to ensure the safety and health of students, teachers and staff.
Stay safe. Wear a mask. Practice physical distancing.