Students who fall ill when they return to school will not have to take a COVID-19 test before returning to class unless they have been in contact with a confirmed case, Ontario health officials say.
Senior government officials held a technical briefing on Wednesday, outlining back-to-school protocols in the pandemic and acknowledging that there is a lot of anxiety and uncertainty among parents and students.
“There are many variables and many unknowns,” said a health expert, who echoed previous comments from Chief Medical Officer Dr David Williams that a low incidence of COVID-19 in the community could bode well for schools.
However, cases and outbreaks are expected. When they occur, part or all of the school will be laid off, depending on the extent of the infections, which will be tracked in the province’s public health database so officials can monitor trends in schools. and districts.
Williams, Premier Doug Ford and Education Minister Stephen Lecce were due to develop back-to-school protocols at an afternoon press conference.
During the 40-minute briefing, officials said parents will be required to screen children every morning to make sure they don’t have a fever or the “classic symptoms” of COVID-19, which can also include coughing and difficulty breathing. Others include severe headaches, aches and pains, and diarrhea, but may involve other health issues. Children may have the highly contagious virus without having a fever.
“If they start to feel bad, that’s the main thing,” said a senior official. “There is no black and white answer. “
Parents are urged to see their family doctor or primary care provider, and may be asked to have their child tested for COVID-19 or to “wait” depending on circumstances and medical history, such as allergies.
However, an official said authorities expected many parents to want COVID-19 tests for all children with potential symptoms for their own peace of mind.
Children should not be taken to school with symptoms and should be symptom-free for 24 hours to return, which creates the possibility that this will lead some parents to be reluctant to have them tested.
Officials also said it made no sense to have Ontario’s two million students tested for the virus before school resumes because the nasal swab is a “snapshot” in time.
Any child who falls ill at school will be assessed by staff in personal protective equipment, their parents will be contacted and the child will be sent home.
Parents will be informed of any positive test at school, at a minimum by a notice posted on the school’s website and possibly by a letter sent home.
Officials urged everyone to get the flu shot, saying flu and COVID-19 symptoms may be similar, and expressed hope that pandemic precautions such as masks, physical distancing and frequent hand washing will keep the flu under control this fall and winter, as it has been. occurred in the southern hemisphere where influenza season is underway.