Province eases school screening guidelines


The province of Ontario has streamlined the daily screening guidelines for parents sending their children to school or daycare, meaning fewer children will stay home for minor symptoms like a runny nose.

The province said the new guidelines will “help parents determine when it is most appropriate for students, children and their families to seek a test for COVID-19.”

The province’s “school and child care screening guidance” is being updated with two sets of questions about symptoms and information to help parents make informed decisions about whether their children should attend school or child care, need to consult a health care provider, or get tested for COVID-19.

The guidance can be found immediately at the COVID-19 Screening Tool for Children in School and Child Care, and the refreshed online tool will launch on Friday, October 2 for download.

“Ensuring that children can attend school with minimal interruption is an important part of their healthy growth and development,” said Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.

“Based on a review of the current evidence and consulting with paediatric infectious diseases experts, we are updating the list of symptoms in the COVID-19 screening tool for schools and child care to ensure that our children receive the education and care that they need while minimizing the risk of COVID-19 transmission.”

The first set of questions asks about “major” symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, or loss of taste or smell.

Students and children with any of these symptoms will still be advised to stay home until they are able to consult with a health care provider or receive a negative COVID-19 test.

The second set of questions asks about other “minor” symptoms that are commonly associated with other illnesses, such as sore throat, runny nose, nausea, headache, or fatigue and muscle ache.

Students and children with only one of these symptoms will be advised to stay home for 24 hours, after which they can return to school or child care if their symptoms are improving.

Students and children with two or more of these symptoms will be advised to stay home until they are able to consult with a health care provider or receive a negative COVID-19 test.

In addition, based on the latest public health guidance, the symptom list for children in school and child care no longer includes abdominal pain or conjunctivitis (pink eye).

“We are grateful to Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health for contributing significantly to the development of Ontario’s Back-to School Plan,” said Education Minister Stephen Lecce.

“Our focus continues to be on limiting the spread within our schools by listening to and acting upon the best available medical advice, which includes ensuring all layers of prevention are in place to keep kids safe.”

According to the Renfrew County and District Health Unit, if children are currently home under the conditions identified above “and will now pass the revised screening tool, they may return to school tomorrow.”

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