As variants threat grows, schools tighten up requirements around COVID-19 screening

There are new stricter school screening requirements in Ontario — and it means a lot more students will be staying home from school.

The Ministry of Health issued the enhanced protection for schools due to increased cases of COVID-19 variants of concern. Under the new requirements, if a student even has one symptom they must stay home and get a COVID-19 test to determine their status.

The medical officer of health for the Porcupine Health Unit says if anyone else in the residence attends school, they must also stay home.

“Any other students within the household, if there’s any adults in the household that work in a school setting or high risk setting, it is generally recommended and required — for students for sure — that they stay home until that individual has received a negative test result or an alternative diagnosis,” Dr. Lianne Catton said.

She notes many COVID-19 cases present with one symptom.

“And it may be very mild. So it’s really working out of an abundance of caution to make sure we are isolating cases, especially moving forward, as we expect to see more variants of concern, which transmit much more readily.”

The higher transmissibility is more concerning for “our small communities and our vulnerable populations,” Catton adds.

The health unit in Sudbury says the additional measure will help to mitigate the threat posed by the COVID variants.

“The success of enhanced public health guidance for screening and self-isolation relies on everyone’s cooperation,” said Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, medical officer of health with Public Health Sudbury & Districts.

“We recognize the impact these requirements can have on individuals and families, but the consequences of variants of concern gaining a foothold in our communities warrants decisive action. These decisions are not made lightly.”

On Monday, the health unit and all four Sudbury school boards, sent a letter to families that details the evolving requirements at schools.

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