The Porcupine Health Unit (PHU) works closely with local school boards to help reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 and provide resources for schools to be prepared if any students or staff are a confirmed case of COVID-19.
In accordance with provincial standards and guidance, the PHU:
While completing the daily school screening at home,
While a student is awaiting COVID-19 test results, they must remain in self-isolation and cannot attend school in-person.
Note: This direction applies only to those who have not been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 or travelled to a COVID-19 affected area in the 14 days prior to their symptom onset.
Parents, siblings and other household members of a symptomatic child are required to stay home and quarantine.
Testing for students with symptoms should be strongly encouraged. However, there are various reasons why an individual may choose not to be tested.
Note: This direction applies only to those who have not been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 or travelled to a COVID-19 affected area in the 14 days prior to their symptom onset
A negative test result means the test did not identify COVID-19 in the sample that was collected.
Note: this does not mean that the individual cannot be exposed to, test positive for or show symptoms of COVID-19 at any time after their test. Continue to practice all public health measures.
A student or staff can return to school if:
Note: This information does not apply to those who are a close contact of a confirmed case, who have travelled outside of Canada within the past 14 days, or who attend a school that is in an outbreak.
The PHU is currently monitoring the situation and following up with students and staff identified as close contacts. Contacts will receive a letter from the PHU through the school, advising them of recommendations, and will be called by a public health nurse within 24 hours to conduct a more detailed assessment and will provide further guidance at that time.
A close contact is typically someone who had a prolonged exposure in close proximity to a person diagnosed with COVID-19. The PHU identifies close contacts through a detailed review of factors such as the individual’s symptoms, where they have been, and who they have interacted with. Close contacts are contacted directly by the PHU and receive further guidance.
The following are examples of people who may be considered close contacts:
Other factors may impact the risk of the exposure such as if the interaction occurred inside or outside, how long the interaction was and if personal protective equipment was worn (i.e. mask, eye protection, etc.). The PHU will discuss these factors when speaking with people who have COVID-19 and their close contacts.
*Please note: Interactions where people briefly come within 2 metres (6 feet) of each other, such as walking by someone in the hallway or on the street, are generally not considered close contacts.
Close contacts are advised to stay home and self-isolate for 14 days from last exposure to the case during their infectious period. Other recommendations such as testing will be provided by the public health nurse who will be in touch regularly.
At this time, we recommend that you continue to monitor yourself and your child for symptoms. If symptoms develop, isolate immediately and call your local assessment centre to arrange testing.
Symptoms can include:
Fever, new or worsening cough, shortness of breath, sore throat/hoarse voice, difficulty swallowing, loss of sense of smell or taste, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, or runny nose or nasal congestion.
But in some cases, atypical symptoms could develop, such as, unexplained fatigue or malaise, muscle aches, delirium, unexplained or increased number of falls, acute functional decline, exacerbation of current chronic conditions, chills, headaches, croup, conjunctivitis.
Practice proper hand hygiene and cough and sneeze etiquette, practice physical distancing, clean commonly touched items/surfaces, avoid touching your face, and wear a mask in all indoor public spaces and both indoors and outdoors when physical distancing cannot be maintained from those outside your household.
The Porcupine Health Unit takes protecting personal health information very seriously.
In the North our communities are much smaller and as a result it is much easier for the public to identify the case. This is especially true in school settings. In order to prevent stigma and to protect your privacy and confidential health information, the PHU does not identify COVID-19 cases as being linked to a school.
Remember: spread kindness, not COVID.
In order for an outbreak to be declared, TWO or more students, staff or visitors must test positive for COVID-19 among additional requirements (see the next question and answer).
If only ONE student, staff or visitor has tested positive, an outbreak will not be declared.
An outbreak in a school may be declared when:
The PHU and local school boards will notify parents of the outbreak. An investigation will take place to determine potential exposures to the confirmed cases.
All close contacts will be provided with recommendations for next steps including self-isolating, monitoring for symptoms, and testing when appropriate. Some cohorts may need to be in self-isolation at home until a date determined by the PHU, similar to individual case follow up.
The PHU will continue to investigate to determine any additional close contacts and monitor the situation until the outbreak can be declared over.
Every outbreak will be different. Through case investigation, the case and contact management team will determine who is at high risk.
The PHU will determine if the infected individuals had contact with anyone outside of their cohort at school, during transportation to/from school, during before/after school programs and what personal protective equipment (PPE) or masks were used.
Based on the outcome of the outbreak investigation, further guidance may be provided to staff and students.
It is possible for a school to remain open during an outbreak. Public health will determine if the school can remain open depending on how many student cohorts are affected. This decision will be made in consultation with the PHU, school boards and the school experiencing the outbreak.
Whole school dismissal may be considered if there is evidence of potential widespread transmission within the school. This may include having a number of cases in students, staff or essential visitors with no known source of acquisition outside of the school and no obvious epidemiologic links within the school.
The outbreak does not necessarily need to be over to re-open the school. Cohorts without evidence of infection may gradually return to school as the investigation continues. Consideration should be given to implementing additional preventive measures and active surveillance as part of re-opening.
The PHU will provide direction on the return to school.
The PHU will declare the outbreak over. Considerations include:
Follow the direction from public health if your child has been named as a close contact.
Continue to monitor your child for symptoms. If symptoms develop, isolate immediately and call your local assessment centre or your health care provider to arrange testing.
For more information, please visit COVID-19 cases in schools and child care centres.
In Ontario, see which areas are high-risk with this interactive map. The PHU is asking students and staff who are travelling from a high-risk area within Canada to consider self-isolating as much as possible upon their return. In addition, individuals who have travelled anywhere outside of the PHU area are asked to self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days while continuing to follow their daily routines. If symptoms do present, students and staff should self-isolate immediately and contact their health care provider or an assessment centre to arrange testing.
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