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COVID-19 screening for students, explained

SooToday looks at COVID-19 screening guidelines and protocols for families with students back in the classroom this fall
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With the help of some educational materials from Algoma Public Health, SooToday has put together a guide to COVID-19 screening for families with students who have returned to the classroom: 

Algoma Public Health is asking students to remain at home or leave school to self-isolate if they’re displaying any of the following symptoms: 

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sore throat or trouble swallowing
  • Runny nose or red eyes
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Tired or sore muscles
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea

The health unit is also asking students to stay home if they have:

  • Been in close contact with someone who is sick or has been confirmed as COVID-19 positive within the past 14 days
  • Returned from travel outside of Canada within the past 14 days  

How do they self-isolate? 

Self-isolation means they cannot attend school in person and must stay at home. They should not have any visitors and should avoid close contact with other members of the household. Any siblings and household members should self-monitor for symptoms.

What if symptoms are displayed before they head to school?

The health unit asks that parents, guardians and caregivers notify the school of the student’s absence, and to contact their healthcare provider or Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000 to find out if COVID-19 testing is required - although APH recommends that parents, guardians and caregivers contact their local assessment centre to arrange for testing. 

Household members should also monitor for symptoms and avoid close contact with the ill student. 

What if they start displaying symptoms while in school? 

According to APH, any student displaying symptoms while at school should be taken to an isolation room within the school. Staff caring for the student should wear a medical mask and eye protection.

Staff should contact a parent, guardian or caregiver for immediate pick-up from the school, with the exception of older students, who may walk or drive themselves directly home. 

If the student reports severe symptoms, such as shortness of breath or loss of consciousness, staff at the school should call 911 and seek medical attention. 

What if testing isn’t required? 

Even if a student doesn’t get tested, they’re still required to stay at home for 14 days. 

What if they’re tested, and the results come back negative? 

They can return to school once they are symptom-free over a 24-hour period.

What happens if they test positive? 

The student must remain in isolation for 14 days from symptom onset. APH will follow up with school cohorts and close contacts to provide instructions for testing, isolation and monitoring. 

The health unit says that other family members in the household should also monitor themselves for symptoms. If family members are displaying symptoms, they should call the local assessment centre for COVID-19 testing. 

Medical notes or proof of negative tests are not required upon return to school.

What if they don't pass screening at home, but they seem OK? Should I send them to school?

No, no and no. Just don't do it. The student could be sent home if the school or school board finds out otherwise, not unlike the situation that unfolded last week in Sault Ste. Marie. 

Two students from St. Mary's French Immersion Catholic School were sent home last Thursday after a parent alleged that she had seen a social media post indicating that the students had been in the United States less than 14 days before. 

In a statement to the media, Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board confirms that the school had not received this information through the student screening tool and began its investigation, part of which included a superintendent contacting both Algoma Public Health and Canadian Border

The school board says the children were 'retrieved' from the school Sept. 10. 

"It is the board’s understanding that both children wore masks while they were at school, that they exhibited no symptoms of COVID-19, and that they remained in their cohorts," reads the media statement from the school board. "It is also the board’s understanding that the students have chosen to learn remotely for the remainder of the fall."