WINNIPEG -- Staff and students at Churchill High School returned to class Thursday morning, a day after the province confirmed a student tested positive for COVID-19. It is the first known case at a Manitoba school.

“We were preparing for the first day since our staff came back,” said Churchill High School Principal Ryan Hughes. “The reality is this was going to happen in our school, just like it’s going to happen in many schools.”

According to the Manitoba government, the Grade 7 student with COVID-19 went to school and took Winnipeg Transit on Tuesday, the first day back to school. The student was asymptomatic and wore a mask while in class and on the bus.

Manitoba public health notified the school Wednesday and the principal said parents were contacted immediately after.

Hughes also said Room 20, the classroom the student was in, is being sanitized.

“That room had been disinfected three times before we even realized a situation was happening in that classroom,” he said. “The division is sending out further support to sanitize the space to make sure it’s deep cleaned.”

Ryan Hughes

Ryan Hughes (pictured) is the principal at Churchill High School in Winnipeg. (Source: Touria Izri/CTV News Winnipeg)

The student was part of a cohort. Hughes said there were 15 students in Room 20 and all of them were wearing masks and kept their distance.

Manitoba public health said the risk to other students is low and is not recommending the students in the cohort self-isolate.

“We think the controls we have in place are strong,” said Hughes. “That helped minimize the exposure risk.”

Radean Carter, senior information officer for the Winnipeg School Division, couldn’t confirm whether the infected student was waiting for COVID-19 test results when they came to school but said it is “vitally important” that anyone coming to the school do a self-assessment before entering the building.

“One of the questions is whether or not you’ve had contact with somebody who is a positive case and then follow those instructions,” she said.

“We can only do our best by following the public health guidelines and keeping each other safe.”

During a news conference on Thursday, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said the province and schools had been preparing for situations like this.

"I can't say I'm surprised – COVID is real, it's here and we just have to be steadfast in making sure we follow the fundamentals and slow its ability," he said. "It’s a nefarious adversary and we have to be smart about opposing it. That means being careful to do the right things and follow the fundamentals that have been outlined for us by our public health officials."

Pallister said while he was not aware of any directive to prioritize testing for students or school staff, he said the province has been working to increase testing capacity overall if needed.

Dr. Brent Roussin, the chief provincial public health officer of Manitoba, provided more information about the student on Thursday afternoon.

He said the student was asymptomatic when they were tested and therefore did not have to self-isolate after the test, adding they were not advised to get tested and were not a close contact of a known case.

Roussin added the student spent half the day at school and when they were notified they had tested positive for COVID-19, they went home right away.

"Because of all the other factors in place, physical distancing, mask-wearing, both on (the) bus and in school, there were actually no close contacts identified," said Roussin. "Public health has not advised anyone related to the school to self-isolate.

"We knew we would see cases in schools and we will see more. But just like this, we have a lot of things in place to limit the ability to transmit the virus in schools."


Roussin added this student did everything they were supposed to do regarding COVID-19 protocol.

He said people should avoid stigmatizing those who are diagnosed with COVID-19.

"The more we scrutinize this situation or try to identify an individual, the less likely the next individual who has mild symptoms might go for testing," said Roussin. "No one blames you for having COVID-19. We just need people to go for testing. So don't be afraid to go for testing."


With the first case in a school, Roussin said it is important for parents, teachers, and other students to remember the student didn't get COVID-19 at school.

"We are living with this virus and kids have had COVID throughout this pandemic and they will continue to have it," he said. "But we have to find ways to limit the transmission."

- With files from CTV's Devon McKendrick, Kayla Rosen and Nicole Dube