WINDSOR, ONT. -- The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit confirmed at least 17 classes have been dismissed due to COVID-19 cases in local schools.

Health unit CEO Nicole Dupuis said Tuesday morning, a rough estimate would be about 600 students impacted.

“The number and total of students so soon is maybe a little bit more than we anticipated, but we were prepared, we did know that there would be quite a large impact,” said Dupuis.

She said the vaccination rate for eligible students is still a bit low and students under 12 years old are not eligible. As of Tuesday morning, 56 per cent of Windsor-Essex residents in the 12-17 age group are fully vaccinated.

Most Windsor-Essex students returned to in-class learning a week ago, on Sept. 7.

The cases have been identified in both secondary and elementary schools in public and Catholic boards.

Map: School COVID-19 Tracker in Windsor-Essex for 2021-22

Windsor-Essex interim medical officer of health Dr. Shanker Nesathurai said Monday that he’s hopeful they can continue to keep the schools open to in-person learning.

“From my perspective, one of the most important public health goals is to try and keep the instructional component opened,” Nesathurai said.

There are several COVID-19 protocols in place in local schools. A class is dismissed when a positive case is confirmed in a student or staff member.

The health unit has not yet declared any school outbreaks yet this school year.