FOI reveals what was going on behind the scenes in HSE/DoH when schools reopened LAST YEAR:

🚨Transmission - occurred in schools/CCFs
🚨1,200 close contacts - not informed on time
🚨Linked cases in schools - missed by PH
🚨EY provided schools data to NPHET

Before I delve in, it is important to note we asked for all records from Feb 20-21 but were only given *heavily redacted* data, for *3 weeks* in Sept - Oct 2020.

[We only named the EY person as their signature was on the HSE HPSC PDF School Reports.]

So, here we go...

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NPHET & HSE *continue* to state transmission is low in schools (even with the #Delta variant🙄).

However, the *heavily redacted* minutes of HSE/DoH meetings shows Public Health [PH] depts across the country reporting:
“...likely [and possible] in-school transmission”
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HSE reported 7 cases in a school/CCF where "all cases were asymptomatic".

Current HSE proposals to STOP testing asymptomatic people in schools would miss huge amounts of cases, especially when "50% of transmission occurs from asymptomatic persons" (nejm.org/doi/full/10.10…)
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On 02/10/20, HSE reported:

“possible child to adult transmission in school setting”

(Important because school staff were (rightly) concerned about contracting #Covid from kids - this FOI supports everything staff were saying was happening at the time) @VoiceforTeacher

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On 23/09/20, HSE reported:

"Primary school [with] 21 cases..."

“There is suspected transmission, including *child to child* transmission, in this school”

(Yes, child to child transmission can, did & does occur in Irish schools @President_MU )
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On 05/10/20:
HSE reported an outbreak in a p. school where PH “did not identify any social occasions that may have resulted in transmission”.

(The approach appears to be to see if they can make any possible links on activities outside school grounds.)
7/ Image
On 06/10/20:

HSE reported “transmission in the school is a possibility”.

This shows guess work involved in how PH are trying to link cases/identify chains of transmission. It also shows how unnecessarily heavy a lot of redactions released through the FOI appear to be.
8/ ImageImageImage
Because of the number of cases PH dealt with & the limited resources/no IT etc., there appears to be no time to do detailed, in-depth investigation of school outbreaks – assessments are done over the phone without visiting the school, links between cases are easily missed...
9/ ImageImageImageImage
...AND linked cases in classes/schools were MISSED.

They were only found because, as seen in this example, 1 school had contacted PH to tell them:

“Epi link between cases would not have been noted had school not phoned Dept PH for advice.”
(How often did/is this happening?)
10/ Image
We know we don't have enough PH specialists in Ireland - and of those we do, they have nothing more than pens, paper & Excel to try to link cases/identify chains of transmission - so this falls back on the Govt & HSE, not frontline PH workers
11/ rte.ie/news/primetime…
By 25/09/20, more than 120 schools in *one Dublin region alone* had required input from PH.

Within 3 weeks of schools reopening in Sept 2020, the contact tracing system was overloaded. It was shut down by the HSE in Oct.

(The HSE had all summer to plan for this!)

12/ Image
On 23/09/20:

*1,200* close contacts of cases in schools HAD NOT BEEN CONTACTED by CTC to inform them they were close contacts.

Quote: "Do they all need a call?

CTC consider informing close contacts by letter instead of phone (potentially delaying notification by days!)

13/ ImageImage
For at least 10 days in at least one area, close contacts had not been uploaded to Contact Tracing system & children had not been tested.

“...children due to return to school shortly & have not been tested.”

(How often did/is this happening?)

14/ ImageImageImage
There was confusion between PH & Contact Tracing Centres in terms of who was responsible for identifying community close contacts & in terms of guidance being given in relation to restricting movements.

(Again, HSE had all summer to plan/train - so why was this happening?)
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Schools/CCFs were struggling to get timely guidance.
HSE reported 3 CCFs closed due to outbreaks. PH only recommended closing 1 of the 3 – but one manager chose to close: “attempt to seek PH advice via HSELive...could not obtain timely response so took decision to close CCF”
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PH raised issues about the COVID Tracker App which alerted school/childcare staff that they had been close contacts – concerns centred on “staffing issues in CCFs and additional workload for Dept PH”.

We now know staff were told to turn the App off (echolive.ie/corknews/arid-…)

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DoH were conscious of the difficulty in explaining why schools would remain fully open, with no additional mitigations or reduced numbers, at Level 4 & Level 5 of Govts ‘Living With Covid’ plan, i.e. when community transmission was extremely high.

(This speaks volumes!)
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