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GTA private schools issue warning after parents say they were on same flight as coronavirus patient
TORONTO -- Two private schools in the Greater Toronto Area have expressed concerns after learning that some parents were on the same flight as a Toronto patient who was diagnosed with the coronavirus.
Ontario health officials confirmed on Saturday that a male in his 50s, who had recently travelled to Wuhan, China, had been hospitalized at Sunnybrook Hospital due to possible coronavirus, which is known as 2019-nCoV.
On Monday, officials said that the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg had confirmed the case and said the man’s wife, who was on the plane with him, may also have the illness.
Toronto Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa said the case is “presumptive” and that the woman is in self-isolation at her home.
Earlier this week, the principal of Richmond Hill Montessori School (RHMS), located near Yonge Street and 16th Avenue, issued an “emergency order” asking any families who have travelled to China to keep their child home for 15 days after they return to Toronto.
“Kindly note, the same 15 day quarantine applies to any RHMS family who may have come in contact with individuals travelling to Toronto from China or any other countries or cities to be known to have confirmed Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) cases.”
On Sunday, the day after the first possible case of 2019-nCoV was made public, the principal issued a statement saying that a parent of a child at the school was on the same flight as both patients—China Southern Airlines flight CZ311.
“Since then, members of this family have been at RHMS despite our Emergency Order. This parent is not the person being held at Sunnybrook Hospital,” the letter said.
“Please be advised that although this parent was on the same flight, the family has informed us that this parent does not show any symptoms as of this time. We have been advised that this parent has quarantined themselves away from their immediate family and that the family has also quarantined themselves until Feb. 07, 2020 as a precaution.”
Toronto Montessori School (TMS), near Bayview Avenue and Highway 7, also released a message to parents on Sunday informing them that two separate parents were on flight CZ311.
“Both parents self-identified to York Region Public Health and are in close communication with them for their recommendations,” the school said. “As a precautionary measure, they will be quarantining themselves for the recommended 14-day period to ensure the safety of themselves and others.”
The children of both parents will be kept home as a precaution, the school said.
The York Region District School Board has said that they are following the advice of health experts, who have advised them that “additional protocols at schools are not necessary and that the risk to Ontarians remains low.”
Speaking with reporters on Monday morning, Ontario health officials said that if parents are concerned, they should contact their primary care doctor or local public health agencies for advice.
“There are still lots of repertory illnesses out there. There is a lot of influenza-type illness,” Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said. “Our rules are still the same. If your child is ill, keep them at home.”
“The same things that schools do now … cleaning toys and stuff like that, is what they do on a regular basis especially around this time of flu season. It’s business as usual.”
Over the weekend, the principal of Somerset Academy, a private school in Markham, sent a letter home to parents saying that families who travelled to Asia will not be permitted onto the property for a minimum of 15 days from the date they landed in Canada.
School officials asked for proof in the form of boarding passes or stamped documents before kids are allowed in the classroom.
Meanwhile, other parents have signed an online petition titled “stop the potential spreading of the novel coronavirus in schools of York Region.”
In the petition, the author recommends schools track students who recently travelled to China and asks those families to stay isolated for at least 17 days.
More than 2,700 cases of 2019-nCoV have been confirmed around the world and at least 80 people have died in China as a result of the illness.