Fully vaccinated students may continue to attend class amid coronavirus cases under new Ontario guidelines – .

Fully vaccinated students may continue to attend class amid coronavirus cases under new Ontario guidelines – .

Ontario’s new COVID-19 outbreak management plan for schools allows for the possibility that fully immunized and asymptomatic students and staff can stay in school even with multiple contacts with positive cases in school.

The new guidelines released on Wednesday open up opportunities for continued in-person learning that were not possible last school year, when virtually no staff or student was eligible for vaccination until the end of the year. year.

The 27-page document states that “in cohorts with a known high proportion of people immunized (i.e. information on vaccination is available), immediate termination of the entire cohort may not be necessary.

“Referral of a smaller number of specific contacts who are not fully immune or previously positive may be sufficient. “

But the plan depends on public disclosure of everyone’s COVID-19 vaccination status, and no one is legally required to disclose their status to school boards or any other national authority at this time.

Without information on vaccine status, the approach to dealing with COVID-19 cases and outbreaks in schools appears to be largely the same as last year.

“Public health units may consider firing the entire cohort, regardless of vaccination status,” the guide says of groups for which little or no information on vaccination status is known.

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr Kieran Moore said the rules regarding COVID-19 in schools would not put up “barriers” to activities for unvaccinated students, but he also said during ‘an earlier press conference that vaccinated students would follow a different set of rules in the event of an outbreak.

People for Education director Annie Kidder told CP24 on Wednesday that she believes it is highly likely that vaccination will be made compulsory for at least some in the education sector.

“I think it’s inevitable that they are mandatory for staff and students. And like you said, vaccination is already compulsory for students for all kinds of things, measles, mumps, rubella, pertussis, diphtheria, with exemptions if necessary, and I think it is inevitable that it will come, ”she said.

“But what we need to make sure is that we don’t just kick off the policy without getting everyone, so everyone at the table; directors of education, principals, teachers, student support staff organizations, parent organizations, all health experts and people from the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health to solve all problems first.

The language of the new plan reflects guidance given to the general public, where close contacts of asymptomatic fully vaccinated cases in any other setting will not need to self-isolate, but rather self-monitor for symptoms.

Changes or references to its outbreak management plan were conspicuously absent from the province’s new COVID-19 school safety plan released last week.

Unvaccinated staff and students considered to be high-risk close contacts should complete a 10-day self-isolation period with up to two PCR tests performed during that period, and stay home for that period, regardless of or their most recent test result.

The guidelines say siblings in a confirmed case do not need to stay home until they have symptoms compatible with COVID-19, which can include a dry cough, sustained fever, nausea, diarrhea, shortness of breath, sore throat or headache.

A spokesperson for Health Minister Christine Elliott told CTV News Toronto that the school plan can be increased or changed by local chief medical officers and can be changed by the province if new developments arise.

“(Public health units) may also implement additional measures that are not described in this guide, depending on local circumstances and / or the PHU’s investigation and risk assessment,” said Alexandra Hilkene.

“The Chief Medical Officer of Health and health experts will continue to review the data and advise the government on the appropriate and effective measures needed to protect the health and safety of Ontarians and keep our children in the classroom.”

Toronto Public Health (TPH) said it was reviewing its COVID-19 guidelines for schools and daycares in light of the provincial update.

“TPH plans to follow these guidelines, consistent with routine case management and contact in the community, where a vaccinated person does not need to self-isolate if they are symptom-free and exposed to an affected person. COVID-19, ”said Dr. Vinita Dubey, Deputy Medical Officer of Health for Toronto.

New benchmark for when to run mass tests

The new plan suggests to local public health units when to make PCR tests available to all staff and students.

He says school-wide testing is to be initiated when two or more cohorts of schools have been sent home due to COVID-19 cases, there are several confirmed cases at one school whose source cannot be determined, or five percent or more of students and school staff have recently tested positive.

Last year, local public health units launched mass testing in some cases where as many as 2% of regular occupants of a school building had tested positive.

Reinforced criteria for the closure of entire schools

It appears the Department of Education is unwilling to close schools due to COVID-19 cases except in extreme circumstances, especially in schools with vaccinated students.

“The probability of whole school dismissal is expected to be exceptionally low in schools with high vaccination coverage among students.

But in cases where more than one cohort of children is infected, school-wide mass testing has already been ordered and contact tracing still cannot trace the sources of all infections, but transmission to Inside the school is suspected, the guidelines say the school should be completely closed for 14 days.


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