By Mike Baker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Ontario government has introduced changes to the COVID-19 school screening protocol, now calling on students who display even a single symptom to stay home for at least 10 days, or until they have received a negative COVID-19 test result or been cleared by a health care professional.
Since schools returned to in-person learning last month, students have been required to be screened for symptoms prior to entering the classroom.
Those symptoms include: fever and/or chills; cough or barking cough; shortness of breath; decrease or loss of taste or smell; sore throat; difficulty swallowing; runny or stuffy/congested nose; pink eye; headache; digestive issues like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain; muscle aches; extreme tiredness; and falling down often.
Previously, there was no set timeframe on how long students were expected to stay home if they displayed symptoms. Instead, parents were informed to continue screening children until such a time as their symptoms cleared up, or they received a negative COVID-19 test result.
All Trillium Lakelands District School Board students and staff are required to screen for COVID-19 symptoms every morning before coming to school using the Ministry of Health’s Ontario COVID-19 self-assessment tool.
Other safety measures implemented by the province include: all students from kindergarten to Grade 12 being required to wear a mask while at school and on the school bus; elementary students wearing masks outside during recess and breaks; secondary students outside on school property or leaving the property for breaks must wear a mask, and are not to congregate in groups larger than five and outside of their cohort.
Also last week, the Ministry of Education announced plans to expand targeted COVID-19 testing for staff and students in all school boards across the province.
“In addition to daily screening, masking and the other health and safety measures, targeted testing in schools is an important layer of protection that helps to limit the spread of COVID-19. Targeted testing will help ensure that our schools remain a safe environment for all to learn and work in,” a recent press release states.
Targeted COVID-19 testing is voluntary for asymptomatic students and staff. Consent will be required from parents and guardians of students under the age of 18.
All local COVID-19 information and updates can be found at tldsb.ca/covid19.