I am writing to provide you with an update on the steps taken by the Ottawa Catholic School Board in response to the two confirmed Toronto cases of the Wuhan Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). School Board staff are actively involved in communication with Ottawa Public Health and with the Office of the Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health, to stay up to date on the situation.
Ottawa Public Health (OPH) is Monitoring the Wuhan Novel Coronavirus
We have an excellent working relationship with Ottawa Public Health, who is collaborating with its health and education partners and is monitoring the situation. OPH is also in contact with local hospitals, which in turn are working with physicians, and other care facilities to screen individuals suspected of being infected by the Wuhan Novel Coronavirus.
What’s Happening In Our Schools
As part of our prevention strategy, we purchased additional disinfectant products to be used in all our schools. These products are safe for our school environment and are highly effective in preventing the spread of colds and flu. Our custodial staff are ensuring that surfaces such as desks and counters receive extra cleaning attention during this flu season.
Board staff are not aware of any students in our system that have returned from a recent international trip from an affected area. We will work directly with Ottawa Public Health should we become aware of any concerns.
Should Students Wear Masks?
Health professionals do not recommend students wearings masks to school. The masks may increase the risk of contracting an illness as they may become contaminated. Healthcare providers dispose of their masks after each patient visit which reduces the possibility of contamination. Students should continue to cover their coughs or sneezes with a tissue or their arm. Parents are reminded to keep their child home if they are exhibiting signs of illness.
To reduce the spread of germs, including the flu and the Wuhan Novel Coronavirus, parents are asked to remind their children of the following:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth unless you have just washed your hands
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your arm, not your hand
- Stay home if you are sick
- If you are ill and must visit a healthcare provider, call ahead or tell them right away when you arrive that you have a respiratory illness and wear a mask while waiting to be seen
- Avoid visiting people in hospitals or long-term care centres if you are sick
- Get your flu shot
Risk to Ottawa Residents is Low
The Public Health Agency of Canada has assessed the public health risk for contracting the Wuhan Novel Coronavirus infection as low for Canadian residents. Public Health Organizations will continually seek new medical information and provide public updates.
If You Recently Travelled to China
Ottawa Public Health is asking travellers returning from China to monitor themselves for symptoms of respiratory ailments for 14 days. Anyone who develops a fever, cough or breathing difficulties within two weeks of travelling to Wuhan or its neighbouring provinces should isolate themselves and seek a medical assessment. Call your doctor or clinic before going to the office.
- Ontario Ministry of Health – Wuhan Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCOv)
- Public Health Agency of Canada, 2019 Novel Coronavirus infection (Wuhan, China): Outbreak update
- Government of Canada – Novel Coronavirus in China
We will continue to collaborate with our health partners and provide information as necessary.