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Province alters classroom, child-care screening rules

Runny noses and headaches no longer require automatic COVID-19 tests to return to classroom or child care.

TORONTO – Ontario has revised the list of symptoms that require a COVID-19 test before students can return to the classroom or child-care centre.

Parents will now be asked two sets of questions at the province's online screening tool, which is mandatory for any student exhibiting potential COVID-19 symptoms.

The first set of questions deals with symptoms like fever or coughs. Any student exhibiting those symptoms is asked to stay home until they have the opportunity to consult with a health-care provider to either receive an alternative diagnosis or a negative COVID-19 test.

The second set of questions revolve around other symptoms commonly associated with other illnesses, including runny noses and headaches.

Students with just one of the symptoms are advised to stay home for 24 hours and can return to school at that point, if their symptoms have improved.

Those with two or more symptoms are required to seek a consultation with a health-care provider to rule out COVID-19 or receive a negative COVID-19 test.

The change was made to ensure less interruption to classtime for students, while recognizing that not all symptoms lead to COVID-19.

"Ensuring that children can attend school with minimal interruption is an important part of their healthy growth and development," said Dr. David Williams, chief medical officer of health, in a release issued on Thursday by the province.

"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."

At one point last week, more than 600 students were awaiting COVID-19 tests, which are being expedited by Superior North EMS paramedics at a series of clinics being held this week at the Boys and Girls Club and the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium.

The symptom list has also been amended to remove abdominal pain and 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."

The new guidance can be found on the COVID-19 screening tool for children in school and care and the new online tool will be available starting on Friday.

Leith Dunick

About the Author: Leith Dunick

A proud Nova Scotian who has called Thunder Bay home since 2002, Leith has been the editor of Thunder Bay Source for 19 years and has served a similar role with since 2009. Wants his Expos back. Twitter: @LeithDunick
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