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Ottawa medical officer quelling fears over lack of COVID-19 case notification in schools

Dr. Vera Etches is also hoping to see vaccination rates grow in the five-to-11 age group.

Ottawa's medical officer of health is doing what she can to ease the anxiety some parents are feeling about sending their kids back to school, after an announcement from the provincial government which stated that parents will only be notified about a COVID-19 outbreak if 30 per cent of a student body is absent.

Dr. Vera Etches said, at a news conference, Wednesday, January 12, protocols should be the same whether or not a student or staff member is sick with COVID-19 or any other infection. 

She explained, if someone in a class tests positive for COVID-19, they are expected to notify their close contacts -- so that should provide some information for parents. In addition, everyone in a class should monitor for symptoms for 10 days whether hearing about someone that tested positive for COVID-19 or after someone leaves a class and goes home with any kind of illness.

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) knows that COVID-19 transmission within school environments is limited, but the level of the Omicron variant is high in the community, and as a result, those levels are typically reflected in schools. 

That's why Dr. Etches continues to encourage residents to get themselves and their children vaccinated against COVID-19, wear masks when necessary and use the province's COVID-19 screening tool before going to school or work.

Ottawa's five-to-11 age group is 64 per cent vaccinated with one dose of a COVID-19 shot as of Wednesday, and Dr. Etches hopes that figure can be up to 70 per cent before students go back to in-person classes on Monday, January 17.

Ultimately, she would like to see child vaccinations follow the trend of what's been seen in Ottawa's 12-17 population -- 94 per cent with a single-dose, and 89 per cent with two. Dr. Etches is unsure why there seems to be disconnect for parents when it comes to vaccinating the younger population. She said it's extremely rare for 5-11 year olds to deal with side effects and there haven't been any cases of myocarditis in that age group. 

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