Fears NSW school COVID clusters will continue to spike
Health authorities are investigating whether a mystery COVID outbreak at a northwest Sydney girls school is linked to an out-of-school retreat.
The worrying cluster at Tangara School for Girls grew on Tuesday as the state recorded 22 new cases, the highest daily increase since April.
The spike led Premier Gladys Berejiklian to declare NSW was on a "knife edge" in the "daily battle" against coronavirus and she ordered private schools to stop holding out-of-school activities.
"Those excursions and overnight things which ordinarily you would do are not acceptable during a pandemic," she said.
"Schools, in particular non-government schools, cannot undertake those extra curricular activities that you do outside of a pandemic."
There were 17 cases linked to the Cherrybrook school on Tuesday, but that number is expected to increase. The outbreak has also forced the suspension of all visits at nearby Anglicare aged care homes in Castle Hill.
Last night it was also revealed two people linked to the Tangara school cluster on Saturday travelled to Shoalhaven while infectious and dined at a local restaurant. NSW Health said the Wild Ginger restaurant in Huskisson had been shut.
Castle Towers in Sydney's Hills District, the same region as the Tangara cluster, has also issued a warning to customers after an infected person visited the shopping centre on Friday August 7 between 3.30pm and 5pm.
NSW Health authorities are urging anyone who has symptoms and visited the centre at that time to get immediately tested.
Eleven students and a teacher at Tangara have now tested positive. The secondary school campus is closed until August 24, with all students, staff and support staff ordered into two weeks of self-isolation. The junior school was closed on Tuesday but will reopen today.
The independent school, which is operated by Opus Dei's Parents for Education Foundation, includes students from larger families in a close-knit community.
In a statement, the school said it had followed all guidelines set out by the Department of Education.
"The school has not held any camps or retreats for its students since March 2020, when the COVID-19 restrictions for schools came into place," the statement said.
It's understood Redfield College, the 'brother school' of Tangara, has also stepped up COVID safety measures in recent days.
Meanwhile, the nearby Eremeran Hills Study Centre, also associated with Opus Dei, declared it would be "closed until further notice".
Inquiries to Eremeran Hills Study Centre about whether Tangara students had attended events at the venue were not answered on Tuesday.
Students from Tangara catch the 626 Hillsbus, which also services pupils from Our Lady of Mercy College in Parramatta where two students tested positive for coronavirus in the past few days.
A Parramatta Public School student also tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday. That school is now closed for cleaning.
A positive case in a Batemans Bay High School student, and one in a student from Batemans Bay public, saw those campuses closed.
Meanwhile, South Western Sydney Health District said two staff members at Liverpool Hospital had tested positive.
One was linked to an existing cluster while the other source remains a mystery. The cases were detected in just over 13,257 tests, down from 20,000 the day before.
NEWMARCH HOUSE TELLS OF BAD ADVICE
NSW Health told the operator of Newmarch House, where 17 people died with COVID-19, not to use full PPE unless staff were around aged care residents who had tested positive or were suspected cases.
The Royal Commission into Aged Care also heard operators claim they struggled to get access to the equipment.
Anglicare boss Grant Millard said the policy instruction in an email from the NSW State Emergency Response and Preparedness Branch, contradicted advice from Nepean Hospital head of infectious diseases James Branley "to treat all of your residents as COVID-positive until it's proven otherwise".
NEWCASTLE COVID-19 HEALTH ALERT
COVID-19 traces have been found in Newcastle sewage sparking a public health alert for local residents.
Recent samples taken from the Burwood Beach Sewerage Plant, near Merewether Heights, detected virus fragments extracted from the stool of an infected person following shedding of the virus.
Shedding is when particles of the virus are expelled from the body and can extend for several weeks beyond the person's infectious period.
The treatment plant serves the Newcastle City area and surrounding suburbs.
"It's remarkable with a large sewerage catchment of over 200,000 people, we've found COVID virus fragments," Dr David Durrheim (pictured), Hunter New England Health's COVID-19 response controller said. "It could mean we missed additional cases of COVID-19 in our community and we have to test more."
Originally published as Fears NSW school COVID clusters will continue to spike