What do Ontario’s new COVID-19 screening guidelines mean for Ottawa parents?

OTTAWA — The Ontario government updated some of the guidelines in its COVID-19 screening tool for children going to school or daycare.

The tool now lists five symptoms it says are most commonly associated with COVID-19: fever and/or chills; cough or croup; shortness of breath; decrease or loss of taste or smell; and nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea.

Symptoms like runny nose, sore throat, and headache are no longer on the list. If a child passes the other screening questions and has none of the five symptoms still on the list, the screening tool will say they can go to school.

However, Ottawa Public Health is urging parents to keep their kids home if they have any symptoms of COVID-19, even if the screening tool says otherwise.

“Ottawa Public Health recommends that individuals with other symptoms of illness (not related to getting a COVID-19 vaccine in the last 48 hours) do not attend school, childcare or work until symptoms are improving,” OPH said in a statement to CTV News Ottawa. “OPH screening tools for individuals are currently being updated.”

Ottawa’s school boards say they are taking their cues from Ottawa Public Health. All students returning to classes in-person must undergo daily screening for COVID-19 symptoms.

If a child has any of the five main symptoms, the province says parents should contact the school or daycare to let them know about the result and talk with a doctor or health care provider to get advice or an assessment, including if they need a COVID-19 test.

Children who do not pass the screening must stay home and not leave except to be tested or for a medical emergency.

If they test negative, they can return to school or childcare at least 24 hours after their symptoms begin improving. If they do not seek out a test, they must isolate for 10 days.

The Ontario government also says siblings of children exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms—who themselves are not exhibiting symptoms—may still go to school provided they are fully vaccinated. 

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