Effective February 23, 2021, NEW screening requirements are in effect for children attending school and daycare.
- Children must be screened daily for symptoms of COVID-19. If even one symptom of the virus is present (not related to existing medical condition), the child should be tested to rule out COVID-19.
- Household members must isolate until child receives negative test result. If testing is recommended and not completed, child must isolate for 10 days following symptom onset and household members must isolate for 14 days following symptom onset.
- If household members are unable to isolate from child, they must isolate for 24 days following the child’s symptom onset (child’s isolation period plus 14 days isolation for household member).
For support and suggestions to navigate this unusual school year, you’re invited to visit and download the COVID-19 Parents’ Guide 2020-2021 School Year for helpful tips and suggestions.
Please remember, parents/caregivers are required to screen their child daily before they attend school.
How do I screen my child?
- Check in with your child each morning for signs of illness:
- If your child has symptoms, seek testing at local COVID-19 assessment centre sites, or consult with a healthcare provider to determine if the symptoms are related to another illness or condition.
- If you need non-emergency medical assistance, please contact your health care provider, Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000, or a Walk-in Clinic.
My child did not pass the COVID-19 screening tool. What should I do?
- Please refer to the next steps of the printable school screening tool, and review the Return to School Protocols. Please note that all household members of symptomatic individuals must isolate until the symptomatic individual receives a negative test result or an alternative diagnosis. Review the Public Health Ontario How to Care for a Child Who Needs to Self-Isolate fact sheet for more information.
What happens when there is a positive case or school outbreak?
If there is a positive case of COVID-19 at your child’s school, HPEPH will work with the school to identify affected cohorts. If your child is identified as a close contact of the positive case, your family will receive direct communication from HPEPH. Please review the following documents to learn more about the protocols that come into effect if a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19 or a school COVID-19 outbreak is declared by HPEPH.
- School Protocol When Staff or Students Test Positive for COVID-19
- School Protocol When a COVID-19 Outbreak is Declared
How does Public Health identify high-risk contacts, and why don’t contacts of high-risk contacts need to isolate?
- Every case is investigated by public health and contacts are identified. All contacts are reviewed by public health staff and determined whether they are at a high risk or low risk of COVID-19 transmission.
- High risk contacts are considered to be individuals who have been in close contact with the positive case during their contagious period.
- Their contagious period is considered to be 48 hours prior to symptom onset, and up to 10 days after symptom onset.
- High risk contacts are advised to isolate as soon as they are identified, for 14 days following their potential date of exposure. This isolation ensures they are not interacting with others during their contagious period.
- Low risk contacts are considered to be individuals who have had very brief or distanced interaction with the positive case, which results in a very low risk of COVID-19 transmission.
- Low risk contacts are required to self monitor for symptoms, and seek testing if symptoms develop. Unless symptoms develop, they can continue to attend work or school, while practicing regular public health precautions.
- Close contacts of high risk contacts are considered to be low risk contacts, as they are not identified as being in close contact with a positive case during the positive case’s contagious period and are not required to seek testing or isolate unless symptoms develop, or if the high risk contact becomes a case.
- When a positive case isolates as soon as symptoms develop, and all high risk contacts who interacted with them within 48 hours prior to symptom onset isolate as well, the risk of transmission beyond these individuals is very low.
- Individuals who may have had exposure to COVID-19 are not known to transmit the virus during their incubation period, which occurs prior to their contagious period. This means that high risk contacts are very unlikely to transmit the virus to their own contacts before they have been identified as being high risk and contacted by public health, and begin isolating.
- Public health uses an abundance of caution when identifying individuals that may have been at risk of exposure to a positive case. The public can be reassured that the investigation process always errs on the side of caution to prevent further spread of the virus.
What other precautions should I take as a parent/caregiver?
Keep as much distance as possible between you and others (2 metres is best):
- During drop-off and pick-up.
- During interactions with a teacher, school staff, or other parents and students.
Be prepared to pick up students promptly if they show symptoms at school.
You will be asked to pick up your child from school if they show symptoms. Make sure your contact information is current at school, including emergency contacts and individuals authorized to pick up your child(ren). If that list includes anyone who is at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, consider identifying an alternate person. Be familiar with your school’s plan for how they will communicate with families when a positive case or exposure to someone with COVID-19 is identified and ensure student privacy is upheld.
Plan for possible school closures or periods of quarantine.
If transmission is increasing in our community or if multiple children or staff test positive for COVID-19, the school building might close. Similarly, if a close contact of your child (within or outside of school) tests positive for COVID-19, your child may need to stay home and isolate as directed by public health. If your child develops symptoms of the virus, household members will need to isolate until your child receives negative test results or an alternate diagnosis. You may need to consider the possibility of working from home, taking leave from work, or identifying someone who can supervise your child in the event there is a school closure or your child has to quarantine.
Plan for transportation:
- If your child rides a bus, face coverings while on the bus are mandatory for students Grades 1-12 and strongly encouraged for students in Kindergarten. Remind your child about the importance of following bus rules, including assigned seating and physical distancing, if possible.
- If carpooling, plan on every child in the carpool and the driver wearing face coverings for the entire trip. Consider finding families within your child’s group or cohort at school to be part of the carpool.
What else can I do to help my child feel healthy and safe?
- Make sure your child is up-to-date with all recommended childhood vaccines. All school-age children should get an influenza (flu) vaccine every season, unless otherwise directed by a health care provider. This is especially important this year because we do not yet know if being sick with COVID-19 at the same time as the flu will result in more severe illness. If you do not have a health care provider, please contact HPEPH’s Immunization line at 613-966-5500 / 1-800-267-2803 ext. 221 to make an appointment.
- Practise proper hand washing techniques at home, especially before and after eating, and after sneezing, coughing, and adjusting a face cover. Make hand washing fun by singing a song that lasts at least 20 seconds and explain to your child why hand washing is important.
- Practise putting on and taking off a face covering safely with your child.
- Plan daily routines for before and after school. Make a list of what to pack for school in the morning (e.g. hand sanitizer, an extra face covering, snacks and lunch, and a personal water bottle) and what to do when your child returns home from school (e.g. wash hands immediately, put face coverings in the laundry, etc.).
- Talk to your child about some of the new measures that are in place, and how they can help keep your child healthy and safe:
- Sanitizing hands before entering school and classrooms.
- Washing or sanitizing hands several times throughout the day.
- Wearing a face covering, if in grades 1 to 12 (strongly encouraged for Kindergarten).
- Covering coughs and sneezes properly.
- Keeping a distance between themselves and others.
- Not sharing food or personal items like pencils or erasers.
- Telling an adult if they are feeling sick at school.
- Physically distancing at lunch and recess
- Staying in cohorts to decrease contact with others.
- Visit PHO’s Preventing COVID-19: Tips for Children Attending School factsheet for more tips.