New School COVID screening tool should address long line ups for tests

Dr. Ian Arra. (Photo courtesy of the Grey Bruce Health Unit)

The top public health doctor in Grey Bruce said a new provincial school screening tool should be a more appropriate screening tool than the current school screening questionnaire.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Ian Arra said a variety of stakeholders have complained about the stringent application of the current questionnaire that may needlessly send children for testing and put families in isolation when it is not required. The new tool is a response to the long line ups at Assessment Centres.

The new interactive COVID-19 screening tool for students, parents and teachers is available at https://covid-19.ontario.ca/school-screening/. The tool will assist in determining if a child should be staying home or attending school.

“For example, one sneeze should not warrant school exclusion, isolation, nor testing,” he said.

While the old guidelines required asymptomatic household members to quarantine if they have a symptomatic student, new guidance will instead require those household members to “self monitor” for symptoms, starting Friday in Grey Bruce. Only the symptomatic student is required to self-isolate for 14 days, or until they receive their negative results and are asymptomatic for 24 hours.

Students and staff with chronic conditions like migraines or allergies that cause them to fail COVID screening, should get clearance from their doctor that the symptoms are from another health condition

If such clearance for chronic disease from a healthcare provider is not available, symptomatic student and school staff will only be permitted to return to school if they have received a negative COVID test result.  have been symptom-free for 24 hours, and are able to pass the Provincial Screening Tool.  Or they have remained in home isolation for 14 days from the onset of symptoms AND are symptom-free for 24 hours before returning to school.

Any asymptomatic individual (even if a contact of a symptomatic individual) does not need to be tested unless directed to do so by Public Health.

“We have identified the backlog of test requests related to school screening and return to school protocols and are working with schools, the local health care providers, and hospital COVID-19 Assessment Centres to address this issue,” says Dr. Arra. “At the same time, we recognize the priority of keeping our children, school staff, and the community safe.”