HALIFAX -- In-person classes at several P.E.I. schools will be cancelled this week after health officials confirmed an outbreak of COVID-19 at an elementary school in Charlottetown.

During a news update on Sunday, Dr. Heather Morrison, P.E.I.'s chief public health officer, announced six new cases of COVID-19 have been identified, all in people under the age of 19.

"We do have a serious situation with COVID-19 transmission in P.E.I. involving children," said Morrison during Sunday's news update.

Four of those cases were identified in students at West Royalty Elementary in Charlottetown, where an outbreak has been declared. Those cases are all close contacts of a student who tested positive on Saturday.

One new case involves a student at Charlottetown Rural High, and one case involves a close contact of a previously announced case that is not associated with a school.

“Ten of the last 11 cases in P.E.I. are in children under the age of 19, and all but one of these cases are in children who aren’t eligible to be vaccinated,” said Morrison.

“At this point we have not been able to identify if these cases are linked to travel outside of the province. As our investigation continues, we may be identify a link to travel, but until that time we will make decisions based on there being community transmission of COVID-19 in P.E.I., and are erring on the side of caution, assuming that new cases are the highly transmissible Delta variant.”

Morrison says contact tracing and testing are underway, and there are currently over 50 close contacts self-isolating.

In-person classes at West Royalty Elementary have been cancelled for at least one week, while classes are cancelled for the next three days at 17 other schools in the Charlottetown area.

The schools closed for the next three days include: Charlottetown Rural High School, Colonel Gray High School, Birchwood Intermediate, Glen Stewart Elementary, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Parkdale Elementary, Prince Street Elementary, Queen Charlottetown Intermediate, Sherwood Elementary, Spring Park Elementary, Saint Jean Elementary, Stonepark Intermediate, Stratford Elementary, West Kent Elementary, Francois Buote, Grace Christian and Immanuel Christen.

Those 17 schools will not have remote learning during the three day shutdown. West Royalty Elementary will have remote learning beginning Tuesday.

“While we have had cases connected to a school in the past, this is the first time since the pandemic began in March 2020 that we have had to declare an outbreak in Prince Edward Island,” said Premier Dennis King during Sunday’s news update.

“Many of the positive cases are connected to a segment of our population that can’t get vaccinated. We also know that children under 12 are able to best excel when they are in classroom learning, able to participate in extracurricular activities and interact with their family and friends, and it’s important for us to catch this as early as we can so we can get back to getting these students back into the classrooms and have as normal a life as possible.”

Premier Dennis King asked employers to consider allowing parents and guardians of students in the Charlottetown Rural and Colonel Gray family of schools to work from home if possible, and hinted that the government would be announcing support programs for those who are unable to work from home during this time.

P.E.I. now has 14 active cases of COVID-19, and has reported a total of 247 cases since the pandemic began. 

No one with COVID-19 is currently in hospital in P.E.I.

According to the province’s online dashboard, as of Sept. 8, 92 per cent of P.E.I.’s eligible population has received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, while 83.1 per cent of Islanders have received their second dose.

A total of 246,214 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the province as of Sept. 8.