Ontario modifies screening guidance for schools and childcare centres

TORONTO — The Ontario government has updated its screening guidance ahead of students returning to classrooms next week and will no longer include runny noses, sore throats and headaches among the list of symptoms associated with COVID-19.

The screening form now lists just five symptoms that it says are “most commonly associated” with the virus, though it acknowledges that guidelines will “continue to evolve as we learn more about COVID-19.”

The five symptoms include fever and/or chills, coughing or barking cough, shortness of breath, decrease or loss of taste or smell, nausea as well as vomiting and/or diarrhea.

The guidance has also been tweaked to allow the fully vaccinated siblings of children exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms to continue attending classes.

Last winter, they too were required to stay home.

It should be noted that the parents will still be expected to keep their children home from childcare or school if they display any symptoms, even ones not included on the list. The guidance just applies to when they can return.

“To parents I would just say this: there’s no such thing as could be coming down with something,” Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa told reporters on Monday morning after touring a youth vaccination clinic. “If you have even the slightest suspicion that your child is unwell we need you to keep that child at home and apart until it’s clear what is giving rise to their symptoms.”

For students exhibiting one of the five symptoms most commonly associated with COVID-19, the guidance remains largely the same as it was last year.

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

Exceptions to that policy will only be made for children who have been diagnosed with another illness by a doctor and whose symptoms have been improving for at least 24 hours.

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