A Toronto-area family is recovering after both parents and three of their seven children tested positive for COVID-19.
“I started feeling symptoms, then my daughter started feeling symptoms over the weekend … and then Sunday evening we got an email that there was an exposure in one of my daughter’s classes,” Shmuli Soroka told Global News.
Shmuli and Elana Soroka are teachers in York Region, where schools remain open, despite shutdowns in Peel Region and Toronto.
“We teach at the same school in York Region and it’s an extremely safe environment but they say all the time there’s always risk,” said Shmuli. “Seven kids in different schools, we see what’s going on in the various schools and there’s always risk.”
Elana, who was busy preparing for the Jewish holiday of Passover, and caring for her children, including the youngest, just five months old, became the most sick of the family.
“It just slowly, slowly just started to creep up on me that I was just sleeping more … and being able to do less and less,” she said.
Elana ended up in hospital for a total of five days, dehydrated, with an infection and pneumonia.
“It was just a lot of a lot of fear of what was going to be … like leaving my family,” she said.
Now back at home and recovering, Elana said she is still unable to spend much time out of bed.
“We never would have thought that this would hit us like this. Young, healthy people … in twenty four hours it just came out of nowhere,” she said.
Two of the children also lost their sense of smell and taste.
Pediatric infectious disease specialist Dr. Anna Banerji said the Soroka’s story is one example of many others she has been hearing and dealing with lately.
“There’s someone in the school who brings it back to the family. Maybe the child has symptoms or not, but then everyone else in the family gets sick,” she said.
With varying views from medical professionals about the safety of schools during the third wave of the pandemic, Banerji acknowledged, it is tough for families to weigh the risks for their children.
“I am someone who has been advocating the schools being open for the longest time, and I’ve always said with the caveat that they have to be safe, that we need to have physical distancing and we need to have the masking, I’ve been saying that all along, but things have changed,” she said.
Banerji pointed to the variants of concern as being more dangerous for children in schools.
“We have the new variant and kids are getting sicker … they used to have the inflammatory syndrome but now you see kids ending up in the ICU and it’s not an insignificant number of kids in the States that have died from it … it’s not so innocent as we were saying before,” added Banerji.
At this stage in the pandemic, Banerji now believes all schools in hot spot neighbourhoods must be shut down immediately.
For the Sorokas, it has not been confirmed that the family got the virus from their daughter’s school but that is the only known point of exposure.
They said other children in the same classroom also tested positive for a variant of concern.
“I see how complicated it is for families when you have your kids at home, parents can’t go to work … emotionally the kids need their friends, they need the stimulation … and therefore, I feel if we need to be in school that the rules need to be enforced as best as possible,” said Shmuli.
The family hopes others take note of what happened in their home.
“I would have never expected that Elana would have been hit this hard, being her age and no prior conditions … I think this variant has really shown us that you just never really know,” said Shmuli.
“Everyone has to take the responsibility to do what is in their control, to be as safe as possible, to protect themselves and others as best as possible,” added Elana.