The Ontario government announced updated guidelines for screening children and students for COVID-19 on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020. Notably, the requirement for students with runny noses to go home, and seek a negative COVID-19 test result before returning, has been removed.
With runny noses a common affliction among children during the regular fall respiratory season, this requirement has contributed to long lines at COVID-19 assessment centres across the province.
According to Limestone District School Board (LDSB), Thursday’s changes “reflect the latest public health advice, and help families determine when it is most appropriate for students to seek a test for COVID-19.”
Runny nose, headaches, no longer require test
Students or their parents are asked to use the government’s COVID-19 Screening Tool for Children in School daily before attending school or child care. The guidance applies for children in daycare and pre-school all the way through high school.
The first set of questions in the screening tool ask about symptoms such as fever or cough. Students with these symptoms are still advised to stay home until they can provide a negative COVID-19 test result, or get an alternate diagnosis from their health care provider.
Several family medical clinics in Kingston are also currently requiring a negative COVID-19 test result before symptomatic patients can be seen in the clinic, funneling families towards COVID-19 testing.
The second set of questions in the screening tool ask about other symptoms that might be associated with other illnesses, such as a runny nose or headache. Students with only one of these symptoms are advised to stay home for 24 hours. They can return to school or child care after that, if their symptoms are improving.
Students with two or more of these symptoms need to stay home until they are able to consult with a health care provider and receive an alternative diagnosis or a negative COVID-19 test. Furthermore, abdominal pain and conjunctivitis (pink eye) have also been removed from the symptom screening list.
Other typical fall viruses circulating in KFL&A
Kingston Frontenac Lennox & Addington (KFL&A) Public Health has advised that, apart from COVID-19, rhinovirus is currently circulating in the community. Rhinovirus is the most common viral infectious agent in humans, and the main cause of the common cold.
Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore said that parents can expect rhinovirus to circulate among school aged children, as it does every year, until mid-to-late October.