Updated: 686 schools in Canada report Ottawa school poisoning case

Image copyright Joanna Koroleva Image caption Many other schools in Ontario have not reported COVID-19 incidents

The number of Ontario schools reporting COVID-19 cases to health officials has risen to 666.

Liquor store video of young boys putting COVID-19 in alcoholic drinks, and video evidence of five boys running naked through a school library, have also led to the cases.

Tests for the nerve agent recently revealed that all of the cases were contaminated with a toxic chemical known as a “felony compound”.

The symptoms that some reported after exposure include dizziness, disorientation, numbness and damage to the lungs.

Some have reportedly been discharged from hospital and recovered, but others have been forced to return to the classroom.

The number of Ontario schools reporting COVID-19 cases was only 465 when the province of Ontario reported the first 15 cases on 16 November.

It is unclear how many schools had COVID-19 cases before the initial report, and whether more cases may emerge in the coming days.

A total of 16 students were affected in Coon Rapids, Minnesota, and 10 were affected in Canada’s capital Ottawa, according to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHRS).

“One student reported hearing an electronic voice telling them that they will be tested for, and likely discharged soon if they responded positively to, the investigation,” Janna Koroleva, a spokeswoman for Lakewood Secondary School in Coon Rapids, told CNN last week.

Image copyright Lakewood Secondary School Image caption A lakefront park where students reported the mysterious symptoms

Schools in several other provinces, including Alberta, Ontario, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan, also reported some COVID-19 incidents.

A female staff member in Ottawa, where all the cases occurred, died days after an exam found she had the chemical in her body.

She had reportedly been on sick leave for the last month because of health problems.

The first symptoms, though initially serious, can quickly subside, and the school did not report any long-term health consequences, Prof CCOHR says.

Image copyright Lakewood Secondary School Image caption A burial ground in a county next to Coon Rapids was not contaminated

CCOHRS has said all 67 students and staff at the Coon Rapids school were exposed to COVID-19 through physical contact, though it may have been inhaled.

“With this case, there was also a risk of people with compromised immune systems, particularly children, getting sick,” Prof Paul Cockrell, from the CCOHR, told CNN.

In Coon Rapids, both a picnic area and a lakefront park were searched for evidence but they were deemed not contaminated.

Coon Rapids is not the only Minnesota school that has been told not to allow students to meet in the field as the area has been deemed unsafe.

In Ottawa, 10 water fountains in two schools have been turned off to lower the risk of exposure.

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board said all schools remained safe to return to school as soon as possible.

Canada’s Public Health Agency told CNN that suspected cases have been sent to a toxicology lab for further analysis.

The chemical has been used since the 1940s for everything from weapons of mass destruction to firefighting, but it is not known if this has been used in a school before.

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