Pembroke high school closed after third positive case of COVID-19

Fellowes High School in Pembroke has been closed under public health orders after a third member of staff tested positive for COVID-19 Wednesday.

The Renfrew County and District Health Unit stated the third staff member was a contact of both individuals, also staff members, who had previously tested positive.

“As the most recently identified case has worked in three additional classrooms, Renfrew County and District Health Unit (RCDHU) is closing the school until further notice to ensure aggressive follow-up and timely testing of individuals considered at risk,” the health unit said in a statement late Wednesday afternoon.

“RCDHU is continuing to work closely with Fellowes High School on this evolving situation.”

The health unit said that upon reviewing the situation with both the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education, “RCDHU has decided this is a necessary measure at this time in order to determine the full extent of the outbreak and to prevent further spread.”

“RCDHU will provide daily updates on the situation.

“In the meantime, all students and staff at Fellowes High School are asked to self-monitor for symptoms. Further direction will be given to those who have been identified as a contact to a case.”

The health unit had declared an “outbreak” of COVID-19 Tuesday after the second positive test of a Fellowes staff member.

“The harsh lesson learned from this outbreak is that we need to remind ourselves how each and every one of us should conduct ourselves in the time of COVID-19,” stated Dr. Robert Cushman, acting medical officer of health for Renfrew County and District.

Dr. Cushman advises residents to “limit your social activities and keep your bubble small” as “we have seen all too well, what gyms, barbecues, bars, and parties can do.”

“In Ottawa, one individual who was sick resulted in 40 individuals testing positive for COVID-19.

“We need to constantly practice handwashing, physical distancing, masking, and use the COVID Alert App.”

“We all have COVID-19 fatigue, but this is a marathon and we are in a key phase with new challenges,” Cushman added.

“If we want schools to stay open and the economy to progress, we must recognize that individual vigilance and strict observance of public health measures are imperative.

“This is not the time to let down our guard but rather just the opposite.”

The Renfrew County District School Board announced earlier Wednesday afternoon that the Fellowes school closure is “effective immediately and will remain in place until further notice.”

“The school will reopen only with public health approval,” the board said in a statement.

“Students will continue their learning online and students are asked to check their District email for information and direction from their teacher.

“The wellbeing and safety of our students and staff is top priority during this pandemic period and the District will continue to support public health staff in any way we can as they continue to investigate.”

Fellowes is the first school in Ontario to close because of confirmed cases of COVID.

According to the province’s school tracking website, there had been 41 cases in Ontario schools since classes resumed last week, 15 among students, 18 among staff, and 8 in individuals not identified.

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