It’s been a couple of weeks since students returned to their classrooms in the region, and some parents are struggling with whether or not their child is ill with a common cold or if its COVID-19, and whether or not they should be attending school.

Chief Medical Officer of Health for the Northwestern Health Unit, Dr. Kit Young Hoon, offered some advice for parents, and for anyone who is experiencing any cold or flu-like symptoms.

“If your child has what essentially seems to be a common cold, a cough, runny nose, fever, sore throat, the recommendation is that they should get tested for COVID-19 at an assessment centre.

“Healthcare professionals won’t be able to just examine a patient to determine if its COVID-19, the only way to really know is through a COVID-19 test.”

“If a child, or if anyone has any symptoms that appear to be a cold or flu-like illness, you should get tested for COVID-19 at your local assessment centre.”

Schools will immediately notify the parents and guardians if their child becomes ill, and the need for emergency contact is vital. The class of the ill child or staff member may be closed until cleaning takes place.

In that situation, the class would be relocated to another area in the building. Students or staff members who test positive will not be able to return to school until they clear the Northwestern Health Unit’s guidelines and isolation.

Schools will also have a protocol where if they’re notified that a staff member or student has become ill overnight, the school needs to be notified so they can clean the areas where the person was, before becoming ill.

If another student in your student’s classroom becomes ill, the health unit may notify other parents, based on if there is significant concern. If there is contact tracing required, you will be contacted directly by health unit staff.

If another student in your child’s cohort are positive for COVID-19 and your student is required to self-isolate by the health unit, students will be supported through access to remote-learning tools.

Every school will have a designated room where the ill student can be separated from other staff and students until they’re able to go home, they will be supervised at a two metre distance and staff will wear personal protective equipment.

Staff and students are encouraged to use the Government of Ontario's school screening tool before attending school. It asks students a number of questions, and will then give a recommendation on whether or not they should attend school that day, based on their symptoms.

“Parents should be monitoring their kids closely. Every parent should be using that screening tool daily to check for symptoms before they send their kids to school. If the tool indicates that you need to seek an assessment centre or stay at home, you should do so. It can really help parents," added Young-Hoon.

The NWHU is continuing to recommend that everyone assume COVID-19 is spreading within your community, and to practice preventative measures like social distancing and proper hand hygiene, and wearing a mask at all times.

For more information:
COVID-19 Assessment Centre seeing ‘overwhelming’ number of calls
KPDSB plan for when COVID-19 is identified at school