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Toronto, Peel Public Health announce new, strict changes to COVID-19 screening for children

Last Updated Dec 4, 2020 at 3:01 pm EDT

Toronto and Peel’s Public Health units have updated its screening guidelines when it comes to COVID-19 in young students, laying out increasingly strict protocols for when parents need to keep their children home from school.

On Friday, TPH sent out a release stating that “if a student has even one COVID-19 symptom, they must stay home, self-isolate and get tested.”

Both public health units are also recommending that if they live with siblings in the same household, they must all self-isolate. Further instructions will be sent to parents and guardians as the updated screening tool will go into effect starting Monday, Dec. 7.

“This will catch COVID-19 infections even sooner and help keep schools and child care open for all children,” Peel Region’s medical officer of health, Dr. Lawrence Loh, said.

Previously, TPH and Ontario medical officials said children with any one symptom could stay home for at least 24 hours and return to school once they felt better or symptoms improved.

Recent outbreaks and asymptomatic testing shows that we need to do more to stop the spread of COVID in our schools,” city councillor Joe Cressy said.

“That’s why Toronto Public Health in partnership with our local school boards, has enhanced the School Screening Tool for parents and families.”

TPH says even mild symptoms, such as runny noses or headaches in kids, will require a COVID-19 test.

“Part of this monitoring has included the new COVID-19 testing pilot of asymptomatic individuals in schools,” TPH said in a release.

“Taken together, this has confirmed that the enhancements made to the school screening tool will support the earlier identification of COVID-19 cases in school.”

The updated guidelines are as follows: if a child has one or more new, or worsening COVID-19 symptoms, parents will now be required to:

  • Keep their child home.
  • Keep siblings and other children home, even if they do not have symptoms.
  • Arrange for the child to get tested or contact their healthcare provider.
  • Without testing, the child must stay at home for 10 days.
  • Monitor the family for symptoms. Adults must stay home if they have one or more symptoms.

 

This comes after Toronto’s medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, issued a letter of recommendation to close an East York school following a significant COVID-19 outbreak at Thorncliffe Park Public School.

The decision comes after three of 30 staff members at the school refused to work on Thursday due to COVID-19 concerns. The Ministry of Labour said health and safety inspectors visited the school and that their investigation is “ongoing.”

“Keeping schools open for in-person learning is important for kids’ development and mental health. It’s also a key equity measure, as not all families are able to do virtual learning,” Cressy added.

“That’s why we need to do everything we can to keep our schools safe and limit potential exposure.”

The school screening tool was designed to help parents and guardians know when it might be best to get children tested for the virus.

As of Friday, 110 schools across the Peel District School Board are reporting at least one active COVID-19 case, with 41 schools as part of the Dufferin-Peel District School Board reporting cases.

There are over 500 schools across Toronto’s school boards reporting an active case of the virus.

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