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COVID-19

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School Administrators and Educators

The information on this page is meant to provide school administrators and educators in Simcoe Muskoka with information and resources to help keep your school community safe and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. This information is based on the direction of both the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education, and will be continually updated to reflect changes in provincial direction and our local context. We encourage you to visit this page often to keep yourself informed.

We all have a role to play in stopping the spread of COVID-19 in schools.

  • Completing the daily self-screening
  • Staying home if experiencing even one symptom of COVID-19, or if you have answered yes to any of the screening questions
  • Wearing a mask and/or additional personal protective equipment (PPE), as required by your school
  • Practicing physical distancing 
  • Following any additional guidance provided by their healthcare provider and the health unit

Whether at home or at school, it is important to follow the recommendations of the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit pertaining to:

  • Hand washing, physical distancing, and wearing face coverings in indoor public spaces 
  • Limits for gatherings and social circles 
  • Monitoring for symptoms of COVID-19 and staying home if you have even one symptom 
  • Taking the online self-assessment and getting testing, as needed.
  • We all have a role to play in stopping the spread of COVID-19. Visit this page often to keep yourself informed, as information and guidelines can change.

School Procedures and Protocols

The resources linked below are intended to provide school staff, families, and other members of the school community with current recommendations for managing COVID-19 in schools, and to outline the steps that are being taken to protect our local school communities.

If the staff or student does not pass daily screening please refer to:

 

If symptoms develop during the school day please refer to: 

 

When a student, staff (including bus drivers, visitors, etc.) become ill during the school day, steps are needed to care for them and to protect others from potential spread of disease.

The school and/or school board should:

  • Alert school staff designated to care for symptomatic students. 
  • Bring the student to the isolation room.
  • If physical distancing cannot be maintained, use PPE kit (gloves, masks, face shields and gown) - to be put on before entering the room with the student.
  • Have the student wear medical mask as tolerated.
  • Supervise student while maintaining physical distance, when possible.
  • Follow school protocol for PPE, cleaning and isolation room requirements.

 

Parents/Guardians:

  • Will be contacted to come pick up their child, if they have developed symptoms. The child will not be able to ride the bus or take public transportation.
  • Should be encouraged to share the results with the school as soon as possible

 

The person who has symptoms of COVID:

  • Needs to self-isolate (leave the school, go home), and seek further assessment and testing for COVID-19.
  • Stay at home and follow instructions provided a health care provider, at the COVID-19 testing center, or by public health.
  • Individuals who choose not to be tested will be asked to self-isolate (stay home) for up to 14 days from the start of their symptoms unless they have a clear alternative diagnosis from a health care provider.
  • Household members of ill individuals who have not been tested will need to self-monitor for 14 days. They can continue to go to school or work as long as they do not have symptoms.

 

Siblings of symptomatic student and staff who worked with the student will remain in their cohort and self-monitor for symptoms (self-screen daily before school).

If the student or staff member who became ill is notified at a later date that they have tested positive for COV-19, the school must be prepared to notify the SMDHU.

When individuals believe that they have been exposed to COVID-19 outside of the school they should complete the COVID-19 school screening and follow the instructions provided.

If, when completing the daily school screening, a person identifies that they have been in close physical contact with someone who currently has COVID within the last 14 days (i.e. they have been notified by the COVID App or by the health unit), they are not permitted to attend school. They must also:

  • contact the school to let them know,
  • isolate (stay home) and not leave except to get tested or for a medical emergency, and
  • talk with a doctor or health care provider or visit an assessment centre to get a COVID test.

The health unit does not recommend that schools notify the school community when a staff or student reports that they have been in close contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19 or who are waiting for test results.

Anytime a positive COVID-19 test result is confirmed, the SMDHU conducts a thorough investigation to identify those who may have been in close contact and communicates with those individuals directly.

At times you may hear about individuals who say they have COVID-19, or have received a positive test result. We understand that this may be concerning for school staff, students and families, especially if you hear this information from someone else before it has been confirmed by the health unit. Please be assured that the health unit works closely with local school boards and schools to protect the health of those that may be at risk.

When the school is notified that someone has COVID-19:

School principals are legally required to report suspect or confirmed Diseases of Public Health Significance (including COVID-19) to their local public health unit. If a staff member (including teachers, bus drivers, before and after care provider, etc.) or a student reports that they have been diagnosed with or tested positive for COVID, the school principal must notify the SMDHU immediately.

Reporting of symptomatic individuals (for example, those that did not pass the daily self-screening) or those that have been in close contact with a person who tested positive or who are waiting for test results is not required.

When the SMDHU is notified that a person in the school has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or received a positive COVID-19 test result, the health unit first must verify the test result with the laboratory. Once the test result is confirmed, an investigator is assigned to contact the person who has tested positive and gather more information from them.

During the health unit’s investigation, the person will be asked a variety of assessment questions. These include but are not limited to: where they work or go to school, when they were last at school, where they have been during the period that they could have passed the virus to others, and who they were in close contact with during these times. It is during this initial assessment that the health unit would be able to determine that the person who has tested positive is associated with a school (e.g. student, staff, or volunteer) and what protective measures were put in place (e.g. physical distancing, use of appropriate personal protective equipment, etc.), and what appropriate recommendations need to be provided to others who have been in close contact with that person.

During investigations, the health unit may also contact the school principal (or designate) to request additional information to inform our assessment. For example, the school may be asked to provide class lists, seating charts, staffing assignments, information about buses, before and after care, etc. If the health unit identifies that there may be a risk to other members of the school community, we will work together with the school principal and the school board to ensure that students, families, and school employees are properly notified.

The SMDHU does not recommend proactively closing a location such as a classroom or school before an initial investigation and risk assessment has been completed.

What is a ‘close contact’?

A close contact is generally someone who was closer than 2 metres away in the same room or area for 15 minutes or more, or living in the same home. It may also include being in the same classroom, if advised by SMDHU. The health unit determines close contact in classrooms based on a thorough risk assessment. For each situation in which close contact occurred, the health unit also needs assess what personal protective equipment (PPE) was worn by the contact and the person who had COVID, as well as the nature of their contact. For this reason, the definition of close contact may not be the same in every situation.

When a positive COVID-19 case is confirmed, the school board, school and health unit take all necessary precautions to protect the health and well-being of all individuals within the school community. The health unit first notifies the school board and school once a positive test of COVID-19 has officially been received.

The health unit will conduct a thorough investigation with every person who tests positive for COVID-19. This may include:

  • Working with the school to determine who from the school community (e.g. students, staff, before and after care, bus, volunteers, etc.) may have been in close contact with the person who has tested positive to COVID-19.
  • Directly following up with all individuals who have been identified as a close contact.

The school and school board will need to prepare the following information, to provide to the health unit upon request: 

  • attendance records for the specific dates that SMDHU requests
  • class lists and seating charts for every class
  • names, date of birth, and address for each student
  • up-to-date contact information for the parent/guardian of each student, and for staff
  • name and contact info for any staff/outside visitors who are not on the class list, that interacted with the class on the dates provided (e.g. Rotary teachers, service providers)
  • before-and-after program child care lists
  • transportation lists and seating charts (regular and after-school program bussing)
  • special assignments and programs
  • records of essential visitors

Schools will also be asked to:

  • Provide the health unit with information about who else the person with COVID-19 was in contact with while at school, including before and after school care and on the school bus.
  • Enhance cleaning and disinfection in all areas of the school where the individual who tested positive for COVID-19 may have been.
  • Work with the health unit to develop a plan to protect all students and staff, and prevent the spread of COVID-19

All efforts will be made protect the privacy of individuals who have been diagnosed. Due to privacy laws, the health unit will not release personal or identifying information about any individual who is ill unless deemed necessary.

An outbreak in a school is defined as two or more students and/or staff whom tested positive for COVID-19 in a school with an epidemiological link, within a 14-day period, where at least one person could have reasonably acquired their infection in the school (including transportation and before or after school care).

The health unit will work closely with the school board and schools to prevent further spread of the virus both in the school and in the community. The health unit is responsible for determining if an outbreak exists, declaring an outbreak and providing direction on outbreak control measures to be implemented. An outbreak may include partial or full closure of the school based on the details of the outbreak.

Please refer to: School Protocol When COVID-19 Outbreak is Declared

When an outbreak is declared at a school, the health unit will: 

  • Notifies School Board and school principal, as well as the before & after care operator, that an outbreak has been declared and request further information.
  • Determine who from the school community (e.g. students, staff, before and after care, bus, volunteers, etc.) may have been in close contact with people who have tested positive to COVID-19 and will need to be isolated.
  • Post an outbreak notice on the SMDHU website.
  • Notify close contacts directly and provide them direction regarding self-isolating, monitoring and seeking testing, even if they have no symptoms.
  • Notify the school board, school, and before and after care when the outbreak is declared over and return to school can occur.

The school board and school will be required to compile information, to be provided to the health unit, including:

  • Attendance records
  • Class/cohort lists and seating charts
  • Before/after school child care lists
  • Transportation lists & seating charts
  • Current contact info for students/staff
  • Special assignments/programs/activities (e.g., Special Education)
  • Records of essential visitors.

Schools and school boards will also need to work with the health unit to create and distribute communications to staff, students and/or families. The health unit will advise the school board and school of additional outbreak measures that are needed and will provide recommendations to support implementation. 
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All efforts will be made protect the privacy of individuals who have been diagnosed. Due to privacy laws, the health unit will not release personal or identifying information about any individual who is ill unless deemed necessary.

After an outbreak has been declared over:

The health unit will determine when an outbreak is over. The outbreak does not necessarily need to be over to re-open the school. Cohorts without evidence of transmission can be gradually brought back to school as more information and test results become available.

Please refer to the: Return to School Protocol for Students/Staff with COVID-19 Symptoms

While a student/staff is waiting for COVID-19 test results, they must remain in self-isolation and cannot attend school in-person. Household members should self-monitor for symptoms and continue to complete the daily self-screen.

If tested for COVID-19 and results are negative:

  • The student/staff member can return to school when they are symptom free for 24 hours* and can pass the COVID-19 screening tool, they can return to school.
  • Mild symptoms known to persist in young children (e.g. runny nose) may be ongoing at time of return to school if other symptoms have been resolved and their test is negative.
  • Documented proof of the negative test result is not required to return to school.
  • Note: If a staff/student has had known close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or the staff/student has travelled out of country, they will need to remain in isolation until 14 days have passed since their last exposure even if they have a negative test result.

If not tested for COVID-19:

  • The student/staff must remain home for 14 days from the onset of symptoms AND be symptom-free for 24* hours before returning to school.
  • Alternatively, they may return if they have been diagnosed from a primary care provider that symptoms are not due to COVID-19 AND they have been symptom-free for 24* hours.
  • Medical documentation is not required to return to school.

If tested for COVID-19 and results are positive:

  • Students/staff who test positive for COVID-19 will remain in isolation (at home) until these 3 conditions have been met:
    1) They have isolated for 14 days after the onset of symptoms AND
    2) They no longer have a fever AND
    3) Their symptoms have been improving for at least 72 hours.

Students or staff do not need clearance testing or medical notes to return to school.

The SMDHU does not recommend that schools share information with staff and families about:

  • Symptomatic individuals including those that did not pass the daily self-screening or who become sick while at school.
  • A student or staff member who self-reports that they have been in close contact with someone confirmed to have COVID-19.
  • A student or staff member who has been tested for COVID-19 and whose test results are pending.
  • A student or staff member who self-reports that they have tested positive or been diagnosed with COVID-19.

The SMDHU works closely with school boards and schools in Simcoe Muskoka to ensure accurate and timely communication to any individuals that have been confirmed by public health to have COVID-19, and those who have identified as close-contacts.

In addition, due to privacy laws personal or identifying information about any individual who is ill will not be released unless deemed necessary.

The health unit conducts a thorough investigation of every confirmed COVID-19 case. This includes:

  • Working with the school to determine who from the school community (e.g. students, staff, before and after care, bus, volunteers, etc.) may have been in close contact with the person who has COVID-19.
  • Communicating directly with all individuals who have been identified as a close contact.

All efforts will be made protect the privacy of individuals who have been diagnosed. The health unit, school and school board will share only the information that is deemed necessary.

Those who are not considered a close contact of the individual who tested positive for COVID-19 will not receive communication from the SMDHU. We do not recommend that these individuals seek testing unless they are showing symptoms of COVID-19. When completing self-screening before the school day, those that have not been contacted by public health would not be considered a close contact of someone who has been confirmed to have COVID-19, and therefore may continue to come to school.

We will be continuously updating information and resources on this webpage. We are also available for consultation and support as new situations emerge, and will provide clarification or additional information as needed in order to support the safest possible learning environment in Simcoe Muskoka.

Letters to school boards

Letters to families

Follow the recommendations of the SMDHU Public Health Guidance to Food in Schools to reduce the risk of infection while maximizing student and staff health, and ensuring continued delivery of food-related components of the Ontario curriculum.
Cleaning and disinfecting

 

 Hand Hygiene

 

Masks 


Testing and self-isolation

 Website Links:

 

 Other

  

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