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Ontario revises COVID-19 screening guidance for schools, childcare

Updates to screening include how long kids need to stay home, when they need a negative COVID test result to return to class

TORONTO ­– The Ontario government announced changes to its COVID-19 school and childcare screening tool on Oct. 1.

The changes, which come into effect on Friday, are designed to help parents determine when its most appropriate to get tested for COVID-19. Some items have also been removed from the symptom list.

These changes were made in consultation with the province’s chief medical officer of health and public health advice.

“Ensuring that children can attend school with minimal interruption is an important part of their healthy growth and development,” said Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s top doctor.

“Based on a review of the current evidence and consulting with pediatric 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.”

Two sets of questions will be included in the new tool.

The first set of questions asks about symptoms like fever or cough. Students and children with any fever or cough symptoms shall stay home until a health care provider gives them an alternative diagnosis (i.e. seasonal allergies) or they receive a negative COVID-19 test.

The second set of questions pertains to symptoms commonly associated with other illnesses, such as a runny nose or headache.

In those cases, students with one symptom will be advised to stay home and can return after 24 hours if their symptoms are improving. Those with two or more symptoms should stay home until they receive an alternative diagnosis from a health care provider or a negative COVID-19 test.

Also, abdominal pain and pink eye are no longer included on the symptom list. These changes were made based on the latest public health guidance, according to a press release from the Ontario government.