Students won't be told if family member of classmate tests positive for COVID-19
Published Wednesday, August 26, 2020 7:54AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, August 26, 2020 5:22PM EDT
Ontario's guide for handling expected outbreaks of COVID-19 in schools this fall says that "cohorts" will immediately be sent home and referred to testing if a student tests positive, but not if a parent or other member of a student's household tests positive.
Speaking on background as Ontario announced its receipt of $381 million in federal funds to boost its school reopening plan for September, provincial health and education officials said that a parent would be strongly urged to inform their child's school if they contracted COVID-19 but it would not be mandatory.
Instead, it would be the responsibility of the local public health unit to figure out the link between the infected parent and their children (presumably considered close contacts) and then inform the school.
Any student tied to the infected parent would asked to withdraw from the school, isolate and perhaps seek COVID-19 testing, but "but information will not be posted in these instances" to the rest of the school community, a guidance document released by the Ministry of Education on Wednesday states.
Officials said the contact tracing process would inform any decision to test students if a parent or family member in their household tests positive for novel coronavirus infection, based on the details and circumstances of the case.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the guides will ensure any parent will know about COVID-19 in their child's school as quickly as possible.
"You will know very quickly if your child has come into contact with someone who has COVID-19," he said Wednesday.
But he said he respects the decision of any parent who decides to keep their child home on remote learning.
Premier Doug Ford said it is important that parents get access to the guides so they can know what to expect.
"As parents you deserve to see same information I see," he said.
But the most important guideline for everyone this school year will be to monitor for symptoms on their own, and stay home in any instance where they feel unwell.
Officials speaking on background said they expect to see outbreaks of COVID-19 at schools, but the involvement of local public health units, bolstered by additional staff paid for by the province, will ensure outbreaks are kept as small as possible.
Parents sending their child to school will be asked to monitor their child's health every morning, including temperature, presence of cough and a number of other symptoms of respiratory illnesses such as COVID-19, and any staff member feeling sick should always stay home.
The guidance documents released Wednesday highlight a number of scenarios, including what to do if a bus driver falls ill during an assignment, or if a student feels ill during the school day.
If a student feels unwell during school hours, staff will direct them to the "isolation room" that every school must have this school year.
The ill student will be asked to keep a mask on and anyone dealing with that student should wear a mask, gloves and eye protection, while school staff contacts the child's parent for pickup.
Ill children will be asked to seek medical advice immediately to determine whether COVID-19 testing is necessary.
Once or while the child is picked up, school staff including the principal will prepare a list of the ill child's close contacts for contact management efforts should the child test positive.
As children this year will be divided into "cohorts" this year, everyone in the ill child's cohort will be asked to stay home for 14 days and possibility submit to COVID-19 testing.
Students with respiratory symptoms but no confirmed contact with a known COVID-19 will not be forced to take a PCR swab test for the virus, that will come down to the judgment of their doctor or a member of the local public health unit.
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said that teachers wary of the school year resuming should know who to call at their board or local public health unit if a student begins showing symptoms that could be COVID-19.
"We want (school administrators) to establish that relationship between public health units and teaching staff."
Schools can possibly stay open despite student contracting COVID-19
The Ministry of Education guidelines also provide for the possibility that a school could continue operating if a student tested positive for COVID-19 and their cohort was kept home, with additional measures to prevent further spread of infection.
These measures include issuing "outbreak "signage at entrances to the school, limiting extracurricular, preventing outside staff such as bus drivers from going to the school, and minimizing the movement within the school or to select areas of the school.