COVID Case Counts “Double” in Parts of Barrhaven and Riverside South; Take-Home PCR Tests Coming to Some Local Schools

By Charlie Senack, Barrhaven Independent 

Rapid COVID-19 tests are coming to students at 11 Barrhaven and Riverside South schools as infections of the virus rise in the communities. 

Ottawa Public Health has told the Barrhaven Independent that spread of the virus is coming from various community settings, and has resulted in 11 school outbreaks within the area. Half Moon Bay Public School has been closed all week after a COVID-19 outbreak resulted in at least 27 infections, and another outbreak at a Barrhaven martial arts centre has resulted in at least 45 cases. 

The take-home PCR tests will be handed out to students at 11 schools which are experiencing an outbreak, and are encouraged to be used Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday — in the morning before school — the week before Christmas break. Participation is voluntary, but it’s hoped children will participate in order to stop the spread of COVID-19 within schools. The tests are only for asymptomatic students who are not isolating at home. Other tests would be provided to those showing symptoms, or who abs been declared a high risk for exposure. 

“Ottawa Public Health is closely monitoring a significant increase in COVID-19 activity in the Barrhaven/Riverside South community,” Ottawa’s Health Unit said in a statement. “Some areas of Barrhaven/Riverside South are currently experiencing rates of COVID-19 that are over double the average rates compared to the rest of the city of Ottawa.”

The rapid rise of COVID-19 infections within Barrhaven and Riverside South comes as Ontario reports high daily case counts not seen since May. Further restrictions seem to be off the table for now, but numbers are being watched closely. 

Yesterday Ottawa’s top Doctor Vera Etches encouraged residents to be COVID wise over the holidays, and to weigh out risk levels when gathering. She noted those who aren’t fully vaccinated should stay home, or follow COVID-19 precautions such as practicing physical distancing and wearing a mask when with others. 

Ottawa’s Health Unit has also encouraged limiting extra curricular activities outside of school to keep the risk of transmission low. 

“Please note individuals who participate in extra-curricular activities are at greater risk of both contracting COVID-19 as well as possibly spreading it throughout their networks.  The mixing of cohorts results in multiple possible transmission pathways, thereby increasing overall community risk,” Ottawa Public Health told the Barrhaven Independent. “To decrease community risk, all individuals must consider reducing group activities.  Indoor activities are inherently higher risk due to the closed environment with shared airspace particularly in situations of physical exertion.  Screening protocols must be robust to ensure potentially infectious persons are not participating in extracurricular activities/sports.  Masking remains incredibly important to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.”