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Toronto Public Health shuts down entire high school for the first time this school year over COVID-19 outbreak


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Toronto Public Health shuts down entire high school for the first time this school year over COVID-19 outbreak

For the first time this school year, an entire high school in Etobicoke has been shut down by Toronto Public Health following a COVID-19 outbreak.

All students at Silverthorn Collegiate Institute on Mill Road have been dismissed from in-person classes and activities, the health unit announced Monday night.

This means the entire school will learn remotely for the timebeing, according to the Toronto District School Board.

“A school dismissal is tough in the best of times,” said Ward 10 Coun. Joe Cressy, who is also the chair of the Toronto Board of Health.

“Nearly 19 months into this pandemic — and after all the ups and downs parents and students have been through — it’s an extremely hard decision,” he said. “While Toronto has become a world leader in vaccination rates, this dismissal further demonstrates that we’re not out of the woods yet.”

Public health is recommending the whole school be tested. They will be following up with close contacts as they continue to investigate the outbreak.

The dismissal — the first “whole school” one for the current school year — may last 10 days but could also vary depending on the length of the investigation, according to a Toronto Public Health spokesperson.

Although the unit announced the closure Monday, they initially tweeted about identifying two or more cases linked within Silverthorn last Thursday.

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An outbreak is declared in a school if there are two or more lab-confirmed cases of the virus within a 14-day period. There were 21 active school outbreaks and 30 active investigations in 122 school settings as of Oct. 8, according to Toronto Public Health.

“TPH is also encouraging vaccination for the entire school community including family members of students, if they have not already been fully vaccinated with two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine,” the agency said.

Cressy echoed this recommendation: “We must continue with our relentless vaccination campaign and maintain a cautious and proactive approach to congregate settings like schools.”

TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird said the board is “working closely with Toronto Public Health and helping in any way we can.”

He added there were 11 confirmed cases among students as of Monday night — with four of them expected to be considered “resolved” by Tuesday.

Although Ontario is planning to roll out COVID-19 rapid tests to certain hot spots for unvaccinated children, the lengths parents and schools have had to go through to help protect students from the virus have already come into question.

“COVID-19 activity in the school setting is not unexpected, given that the virus continues to circulate in Toronto and how transmissible Delta variant is,” TPH said.

To track if there are COVID-19 cases at your child’s school, use the Star’s tool to search Ontario schools by name and keep up to date with case counts.

Irelyne Lavery is a Toronto-based staff reporter for the Star. Reach her via email: [email protected]

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