Stay home: schools act on student and teacher COVID infections

Schools are reminding parents to keep students with COVID at home for five days, as SA Education Department figures show 277 teachers are currently away from government schools with the virus.

May 30, 2023, updated May 30, 2023
Photo: Bianca De Marchi/AAP

Photo: Bianca De Marchi/AAP

The state recorded more than 4,000 new COVID cases and nine deaths last week, with 1088 government school students now at home with the virus.

Unley High School sent parents an update yesterday, warning that doctors have reported the health impacts of COVID cases are being made worse by an “equally nasty” upper respiratory virus sweeping through the community with fevers lasting up to seven days and coughs holding on longer.

“We are monitoring the flow on affect in our schools,” it said, with a reminder for “all staff, students and families to look out for symptoms”.

Education Minister Blair Boyer said the directive from the Education Department telling schools that students or staff members testing positive for COVID-19 must notify the school and not attend for five days or when symptomatic was unchanged since last year.

But the measures kept in place at about 500 government schools, such as wearing face masks when there have been cases reported, had been in place “even when other states relaxed their policies”.

“Our Covid policy has shown to be successful in helping minimise risk and supports the community during spikes in case numbers by reducing transmission,” Boyer said.

It followed last Thursday’s official SA Health data showing there were 177 people with COVID in hospital including five people in intensive care units and one patient ventilated, while the overall number of reported cases rose by more than 750 in a week.

Health Minister Chris Picton said COVID is continuing to put pressure on the state’s hospital and health system, flu also having an impact with “several dozen patients with flu currently in hospitals”.

“While South Australians are encouraged to continue to report positive RAT results to SA Health, we know there are cases that are not counted in the community,” Picton said.

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“This rise in cases last week is in line with modelling that shows an increase in cases at the end of May and into June. I urge people to stay home if they are sick to reduce the risk of spreading disease, and to protect those most vulnerable to serious illness.”

Childcare centres are also experiencing high numbers of COVID cases and that is particularly affecting staffing, according to Australian Childcare Alliance (SA) president Kerry Mahony.

This is creating problems in Mahony’s own two centres, with six of 40 staff members away with COVID last week.

“It’s definitely quite high at the moment,” he said, adding that his own business was being forced to “overstaff” to ensure there was adequate cover for illnesses.

The Education Department continues to urge centres to conduct antigen testing surveillance for all preschool and early childhood education and care staff with testing occurring every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but this is an “opt in” directive.

Catholic private schools are not reporting a significant spike in COVID cases amongst students or staff at 101 schools across the state with a spokeswoman saying “schools are managing staff and student absences in the standard way as part of a normal increase as we head into winter”.

There has been a week-on-week rise in reported COVID numbers, the week before last the COVID numbers for the state were recorded at 3,256 cases on May 19, 2,471, May 12 and 2,363 on May 5.

There are now 1,448 people who have died from COVID-19 since it first arrived in SA and led to an Emergency Management Directive from March 2020 to May 2022. The nine people who died of COVID in the most recent reporting occurred over a period longer than a week.

Last week, SA Health also reported that 11,490 people received a PCR test in South Australia, a 13 per cent increase on the previous week. Of the test results returned, 1,118 PCR tests were positive and 2,894 positive Rapid Antigen Test results were reported.

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