Ontario may change COVID-19 symptom list for public school students

TORONTO — The list of symptoms that parents have to screen their children for before sending them off to school may soon be shortened, according to Health Minister Christine Elliott.

Parents are currently expected to keep their children home if they are exhibiting any of the 17 symptoms identified by the province as being related to COVID-19.

The list, however, includes a number of symptoms that are fairly common, like a runny nose or a sore throat.

Both of those, it should be noted, are not among the 11 common symptoms of COVID-19 listed on the Government of Canada’s website.

Speaking with reporters during a briefing on Friday, Health Minister Christine Elliott confirmed that provincial officials are now “re-examining” the symptom list to see whether it can be safely cut back, thus allowing more children to stay in class.

The discussions come after British Columbia’s Ministry of Health removed ten symptoms from its list for school-aged children, including runny nose, headache and fatigue.

“We know that many, many children have runny noses throughout the school year but are otherwise healthy so we have referred the issue to the health measures table to look at redesigning the symptoms that are indicative of COVID to allow for children to stay in school if it appears as though it is only a runny nose,” Elliot said. “We are working on that now because we recognize some of the challenges that this is posing in the education system.”

Right now any student self-reporting one of the 17 symptoms identified by the province will be asked to stay home for 14 days unless they test negative for COVID-19 or are diagnosed with another illness by a doctor.

The lengthy symptom list has prompted numerous parents to bring their children to COVID-19 assessment centres for testing, adding to lineups that were already growing in recent weeks due to an overall increase in the spread of the virus.

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