September 11, 2020
Health Units have had many questions about COVID-19 from families with children attending child care centres, and families with children and youth in schools.
We already know that COVID-19 is spread through droplets from a cough, sneeze or singing by someone who is infectious to someone who is close to them. This is a good time to remember that the droplets can land up to two metres away and can survive for a few hours on hard surfaces. Symptoms may look like a cold (sore throat, runny nose, cough, fever, headache) or other symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea. Symptoms can develop up to 14 days after being infected – usually two to five days.
Public health and school boards are asking parents to use an anonymous online screening tool (also available in printable version) each day to provide direction about what to do if a child is experiencing symptoms. This should become part of your family’s morning routine. Teachers, school staff and any other individuals entering the school will also be asked to self-screen using the COVID-19 self-assessment tool, and follow its directions.
The Leeds Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit has been working with the Schools Boards in our regions as well as the Eastern Ontario Health Unit to implement the Ministry of Education Guidelines for child care and school re-opening. The Guidelines are based on the key public health measures that have helped us “flatten the curve” and keep cases low in our communities. We are promoting that people be COVID – SMART to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in all regions – see a link to what this acronym means here: https://healthunit.org/health-information/covid-19/gatherings-social-circles/
Preventing and minimizing transmission is our priority. Our case and contact management team is ready 7 days a week to investigate new positive COVID-19 cases and trace who might have been exposed. Public Health will be involved at every step and are ready to answer questions and offer guidance related to symptoms and testing.
Public Health will contact all the families of children/youth, as well as teachers and others who might have had close contact (less than 2 metres) with an individual with COVID-19. Close contacts are required to stay at home for 14 days, or as directed by public health, and will be informed about testing requirements. The school will also activate infection control procedures such as cleaning and disinfection of the classroom and any other affected areas of the school. Parents of children/youth will be notified that someone has tested positive for COVID-19 in their child care centre or school.
If there is an outbreak at the school (two or more cases linked from within the school), public health will determine, through investigation, whether class cancellations or school closure are necessary. The status of cases and outbreaks will be posted on the websites of schools that have a website, school boards and their respective health units. The LGL area will be listed here: https://healthunit.org/health-information/covid-19/local-cases-and-statistics/schools/
“Timely and transparent communication with families and the school community is important to us,” says Dr. Paula Stewart, Medical Officer of Health for Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit. “Providing specific guidance to parents if there is a case in a child care centre or school can help respond to people’s concerns.”
While the child care and school communities will be kept informed through information on the website, it’s important to remember that public health has an obligation to protect the privacy of any individuals who are suspected and confirmed to have COVID-19.
“We also are committed to respecting children’s privacy and ask that people be kind and resist the temptation to speculate about absences or share rumours about possible cases – especially on social media,” Stewart continues. “Kindness and compassion need to be shown at all times.”
For more information on COVID-19 and the re-opening of schools, please visit the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit’s website at https://healthunit.org/health-information/covid-19/schools/ or call 1-866-236-0123.
To view your local school board’s return-to-school plan, visit their website:
- Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB): www.ucdsb.on.ca
- Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario (CDSBEO): www.cdsbeo.on.ca
- Conseil scolaire de district catholique de l’Est ontarien (CSDCEO): www.csdceo.ca
- Conseil des écoles publiques de l’Est de l’Ontario (CEPEO): www.cepeo.on.ca
For more information about this press release or for media interviews, please contact: [email protected] or call 613-802-0550.
We have worked closely with the Eastern Ontario Health Unit throughout the process of preparing for schools to open; for interviews about information for that area, please send requests to: [email protected].