Brandon School Division officials registered two more COVID-19 exposures Monday evening, announcing new cases at Riverheights School in Brandon and École O’Kelly School in CFB Shilo.
According to a pair of letters sent out Monday night, the confirmed case at Riverheights involved someone who was in a Grade 1 classroom (who may have been infectious throughout Sept. 9-10), whereas the exposure at O’Kelly may have impacted three separate grades (where the individual may have been infectious on Sept. 10).
In both cases, BSD officials noted that "the infection was not believed to be acquired at school."
These two notices come a day after BSD registered its first COVID case of the 2021-22 academic year, which was found in a Grade 12 class at Vincent Massey High School.
Elsewhere in the province, several other K-12 institutions are also reeling from fresh COVID discoveries following the first week of school.
A Grade 1 class from Woodlawn School, located in Steinbach’s Hanover School Division, has even shifted to remote learning until Sept. 23 after registering a new COVID case on Sunday.
In Winnipeg, École R.H.G. Bonnycastle School is working closely with public health officials after discovering a COVID case in a kindergarten class.
According to the province’s COVID-19 dashboard for K-12 institutions, as of Tuesday afternoon, 10 cases have been registered in Manitoba schools since Sept. 7.
Of these 10 cases, eight cases are students and the remaining two are school staff.
Talking to the Sun on Tuesday, acting Supt. Mathew Gustafson told the Sun that BSD administration always knew that COVID cases would inevitably pop up with the return of full-time in-class learning, since transmission is still taking place in the broader community.
"So our plan was not to eliminate the transmission in the community, because we can’t control that, but to limit the transmission in schools," he said.
BSD has put several safety protocols in place to protect staff and students from the spread of COVID, like requiring them to wear masks in class and on buses when two metres of physical distancing can’t be achieved.
The province is mandating that all school staff be fully immunized by Oct. 31 or undergo regular COVID testing.
"So we are just in the process now of obtaining the proof of vaccinations following that release, and we’re working on the implementation plan for the testing," Gustafson said Tuesday morning.
Gustafson also told the Sun last month that BSD’s current back-to-school plan is temporary and will be subject to change as the academic year progresses.
In terms of whether BSD is considering a return to remote learning in light of these three new COVID cases, Gustafson said he would need to see evidence of widespread transmission from within the schools before pursuing that course of action.
When it comes to all three COVID exposures so far, BSD officials have maintained the stance that "the infection was not believed to be acquired at school."
"If students happen to be hanging out with each other in the evening, if there are sleepovers, if there are other situations where transmission occurs outside (of school grounds), the schools have very limited impact on influencing that," Gustafson said.
"What we do control is our physical distancing, our mask use within the schools, all those layers of protection that we try to put in place to reduce the risk of transmission."
» Twitter: @KyleDarbyson