Ontario updates COVID-19 screening guidelines for students: Test not required for a only a runny nose

OTAWA — The medical officer of the Eastern Ontario Health Unit believes new COVID-19 screening guidelines for children in schools and daycares will provide a “break” to parents and the overloaded COVID-19 testing system across the region.

New COVID-19 screening guidance released by the Ontario Government says children who only have a runny nose, headache or sore throat can now return to school or daycare after 24 hours without a negative COVID-19 test result, as long as the symptoms are improving.

Ontario has also removed abdominal pain and pink eye from its list of COVID-19 symptoms in the screening tool.

Speaking on CTV News at Five, Dr. Paul Roumeliotis says the new guidelines focus on four symptoms that would cause your child to stay home and go for COVID-19 testing immediately.

“Fever, cough, shortness of breath or loss of smell or taste. Those are the four that are linked to a high probability of COVID-19,” said Dr. Roumeliotis.

The COVID-19 Screening Tool states if your child has a fever, cough, shortness of breath or loss of smell or taste, parents will need a negative COVID-19 test result or receive an alternate diagnosis from a health care provider.

If your child has only a runny nose, a sore throat or a headache, Dr. Roumeliotis says a COVID-19 test is not needed immediately.

“Stay home until the child is feeling better, at least 24 hours and then they go back to school if they’re feeling better, provided they don’t develop any other symptoms,” said Dr. Roumeliotis.

“The important thing is: A. they do not need a medical note to go back to school and B. they don’t need to be COVID tested either.”

Ottawa Public Health tells CTV News Ottawa they are reviewing the new screening criteria.

Ontario’s new COVID-19 Screening Tool for Children in Schools and Child Care asks parents two questions.

The first question states: Does your child have any of the following new or worsening symptoms?

  • Fever and/or chills (Temperature of 37.8C or greater)
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Decrease or loss of smell or taste

The second question states: Does your child have any of the following new or worsening symptoms?

  • Sore throat (painful swallowing or difficulty swallowing)
  • Stuffy nose and/or runny nose
  • Headache
  • Nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Fatigue, lethargy, muscle aches or malaise

If you answered “YES” to any of the symptoms included under question 1:

  • Your child should stay home to isolate immediately
  • Contact your child’s health care provider for further advice or assessment, including if your child needs a COVID-19 test or other treatment

If you answered “YES” to only one of the symptoms included under question 2:

  • Your child should stay home for 24 hours from when the symptoms started
  • If the symptom is improving, your child may return to school/child care when they feel well enough to do so. A negative COVID-19 test is not required to return
  • If the symptom persists or worsens, contact your child’s health care provider for further advice or assessment

If you answered “YES” to two or more of the symptoms included under question 2:

  • Your child should stay home to isolate immediately
  • Contact your child’s health care provider for further advice or assessment, including if your child needs a COVID-19 test or other treatment

The Ontario Government’s COVID-19 screening guidelines had previously said that any children exhibiting any of the 17 symptoms listed in its screening questionnaire would have to self-isolate at home for 14 days or test negative for novel coronavirus before returning to school.

Speaking on CTV News at Five, anchor Matt Skube asked Dr. Roumeliotis why the Ontario Government is changing the COVID-19 screening guidelines.

“We know now that the major symptoms that we’ve seen in COVID, particularly in children, is fever and cough. The other symptoms like runny nose and headache isolated are very rarely associated with COVID-19. In fact, we know that the vast majority of the children that have been tested now since school began are actually negative,” said Dr. Roumeliotis.

“This was done in an attempt to ensure that those children are not kept home for 14 days or not tested unnecessarily. I do believe that this will give a bit of a break to the parents, obviously, and also to the testing overload that we’re experiencing at this point in time.”

Dr. Roumeliotis says if a child answers yes to question 1, asking about fever, cough, shortness of breath or loss of smell, the full household must isolate.

“If we’re suspecting COVID, so either the children has one of the first four symptoms – Cough, fever, shortness of breath or loss of smell – or has any of the two other symptoms on the second list then we have to rule out COVID-19. In that situation, those precautions have to take place in terms of the isolation of the household.”

With files from CP 24 Web Content Writer Chris Fox

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