The Covid cluster at a Sydney autism school has grown to 18 cases

Covid has been connected to 18 instances of the virus, including seven kids at a Sydney school for children and young people on the autistic spectrum. From kindergarten to year 12, Giant Steps in Gladesville educates autistic children and young people.

The school was closed on Thursday last week when a staff member tested positive, despite the fact that it was still not on the New South Wales Health list of exposure sites. Until further notice, all staff and students were instructed to self-isolate.

According to an email written to parents and obtained by Guardian Australia on Thursday, the cluster had grown to 18, including seven pupils, three staff members, and eight family members. Two adults were among them, and they were "now undergoing some precautionary medical care."

The school had stayed open with the consent of NSW Health due to the high-level requirements of the kids and had been functioning in bubbles to keep children's courses separate. The school has been "phenomenal" in limiting interaction across cohorts, according to a mother of a Giant Steps secondary school kid who did not want to be identified.

She was dissatisfied, however, since although close connections associated with one "bubble" were discovered on Tuesday, parents with children in other bubbles were only contacted two days later when the school closed. The mother explained, "They shuttered one portion of the school on Tuesday, but we didn't find out until Thursday afternoon that there had been a positive case at the secondary school."

“With the consent of [NSW Health], [the school] was kept open [during the lockdown], and thank God they did because it would have been a tragedy. The only mistake was not informing us all on Tuesday and not shutting down the entire system on Tuesday.”

The mother was also concerned that the school had not been identified by NSW Health as an exposure site. The woman's 17-year-old son had previously tested negative for coronavirus.

In a letter to parents last week, Giant Steps chairman Barry Irvin stated that the school first believed the "problem" was "contained to one bubble," but that a case was later discovered in the "other secondary bubble." Irvin stated, "These are really difficult and emotional conditions."

“While it is easy to look back and wonder how these situations might have been averted or how Covid-19 got into our school in the first place, we must now concentrate on the care and support of the whole Giant Steps community.”

Irvin stated that the school will "certainly evaluate all of our processes" and that it would continue to help families "in light of our children's particular needs and the substantial constraints of the isolation rules." According to the MySchool website, the school had 90 pupils, 21 teaching personnel, and 66 non-teaching employees.

It comes amid ongoing dissatisfaction with the vaccine's sluggish distribution among individuals with disabilities. Nicole Rogerson, CEO of Autism Awareness Australia, expressed her condolences to the school community. “Think about these children; they're perplexed; they don't know what a pandemic is, much less why they're isolated,” she explained.