Ontario unveils detailed plan to deal with COVID-19 outbreaks in schools

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TORONTO – Almost two weeks before some classes start, the Ontario government has released its plans for how COVID-19 outbreaks will be managed and treated in schools. The plans were released on Wednesday and include possible scenarios for what will happen if a student exhibits symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19 and if a staff member, bus driver or parent contracts the disease.

This is what you need to know.

What happens if a student feels ill at school?

According to documents provided by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health, schools do not need to report all cases where a child feels bad, because “these are frequent cases and students usually have problems. non-specific symptoms ”.

The decision to contact parents or public health or not remains in the hands of the school principal.

If the principal believes the child is suffering from symptoms of the novel coronavirus, the student should be taken to a designated isolated area while their parents are contacted. Students and staff should wear the appropriate personal protective equipment.

The student will be sent home and told to contact his local doctor. If a COVID-19 test is needed, they will continue their distance learning while awaiting the results, assuming they are well enough to do so.

The school principal will notify the board’s COVID-19 official, who will monitor student attendance and absences.

If a child does not have COVID-19 but has symptoms such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath, they will be asked to stay home for up to 24 hours after they stop experiencing these symptoms.

Parents are expected to monitor their child every morning for common symptoms, but officials have said the challenge will be that some children will not show any symptoms.

What happens if there is a positive case?

Schools will be notified by their local public health unit (PHU) if they have a positive case of COVID-19.

Anyone in the school community who tests positive for COVID-19, including students, staff and bus drivers, will be asked to stay in isolation for 14 days. They will not be allowed to return until they have been cleared by the local public health unit or their health care provider.

It is not necessary to provide proof of a negative test to return to school.

Cohorts linked to a positive case in schools will be considered at high risk of exposure.

The government has said that in the event of a positive diagnosis of COVID-19 in which the disease was acquired outside of school, the patient cohort will likely be sent home to isolate themselves as well. This includes groups in classrooms, buses, and before or after school programs.

“There may be exceptions to these recommendations on a case-by-case basis, as determined by the BSP,” the outbreak management document said.

“For example, if the case was known to have contracted his infection outside of school and had very short or limited contact with the school while he was infectious, the BSP may decide on a more limited dismissal. . ”

Anyone else who was in close contact with the case while they were considered infectious will also be asked to self-isolate.

If there is no known source for a patient or if it is likely that they contracted the disease at school, that person’s cohort as well as anyone else identified as being at high risk will be asked to self-isolate and get tested as soon as possible. .

It is the responsibility of school staff to keep up-to-date and detailed records that could assist health officials in tracing contacts. This includes attendance registers, seating plans, contact details and lists for class transportation and childcare.

School boards have been urged to create an advisory board on their website to notify parents of any positive COVID-19 cases.

What happens if there is an epidemic?

According to the documents, an outbreak is defined as two or more cases among students or staff “with an epidemiological link, within a period of 14 days”. At least one of the cases must have been transmitted within the school.

School boards will consider closing the school if there is evidence of “widespread transmission,” such as if there are cases in many cohorts or if a number of cases have no known source. outside the community.

It is then recommended that all participating students be tested.

An outbreak does not need to be declared over for a school to reopen, officials said.

“Cohorts without evidence of transmission can be gradually brought back to school as additional information and test results become available,” the documents say. “Consideration should be given to implementing additional preventive measures and active surveillance as part of the reopening.”

An outbreak will be declared over after at least 14 days without evidence of continuing school-related transmission and if no other sick people associated with the exposed cohorts have pending tests.

This is news in development. More soon.

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