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Ontario revises school, child care centre COVID-19 screening guidelines

Last Updated Oct 1, 2020 at 6:07 pm EDT

Students line up outside a Toronto school to get screened for COVID-19 upon entry.

Parents of students with the sniffles or a headache will no longer have to line up for hours to get their children tested at COVID-19 assessments centres under Ontario’s newly amended screening guidelines for schools and daycares.

Dr. Barbara Yaffe, the province’s associate chief medical officer of health, said students with either of those symptoms can return to school after 24 hours if they feel fine. She said those are only symptoms in about 17 per cent of COVID-19 cases among children, so the change seemed prudent.

“I have never discussed runny nose so much in life,” she said.

“There’s all sorts of other causes of a runny nose, there’s other viruses circulating in the community. The kid might have just been outside and got a runny nose.”

Previously, the government had asked children with either symptom to stay home until they received a negative test result or other medical diagnosis.

Ontario is also removing abdominal pain or conjunctivitis from its screening list.

Children with a fever or cough will still be required to stay home, consult with a doctor and receive an alternative diagnosis or a negative COVID-19 test.

Ontario’s change comes after British Columbia dropped 10 symptoms, including a runny nose, from their screening guidance last month.

NDP education critic Marit Stiles slammed the Ontario government for its changing guidelines, saying the shifts are giving parents “whiplash.”

“Parents who spent hours and hours in line this week with their little ones waiting for a test have a right to be frustrated at the horrible lack of clarity on when kids need a test, and when they should return to school or daycare,” she said.

Provincial officials reported 64 new cases of COVID-19in Ontario schools – at least 29 of those cases were among students. That brings the total number of cases reported to 447.

A total of 306 out of more than 4,800 hundreds schools across the province have reported at least one case of coronavirus while three schools have been forced to closed after an outbreak was declared.