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Media Release: Enhanced COVID-19 measures to begin at HPE schools tomorrow

Hasting and Prince Edward Counties/December 6, 2021

While infection prevention protocols and screening have helped limit the spread of COVID-19 in classrooms, we are now seeing an increase in the number of cases reported in elementary schools, as well as transmission within elementary schools. Transmission of COVID-19 between school-aged children not only increases the risk of spread within households and the community, but is resulting in isolation of multiple cohorts and children. HPEPH recognizes these isolation requirements have a tremendous impact on the families of school-aged children. Isolation dates are now nearing the winter break and is impacting access to vaccination since children who are isolated cannot attend their vaccination appointments.

The following measures will enhance current screening and other measures in HPE schools until further notice while vaccination rates for this age group increases.

Vaccination is your child’s best defence

In order to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading in local elementary schools, parents of children aged 5-11 are strongly advised to book an appointment to get their child vaccinated. The impact of COVID-19 vaccination has proven beneficial as we are seeing very limited cases and spread in the secondary schools due to the impact of vaccination. If your child is eligible for vaccination, please have them vaccinated as soon as possible. Vaccination is safe, effective, and it works.

Enhanced symptom screening

In order to keep local classrooms as safe as possible, HPEPH will be implementing enhanced school symptom screening requirements, effective tomorrow. An information package about the enhanced screening requirements will be sent home with students today.

COVID-19 case investigations show that children are attending school while they have symptoms of illness, which is contributing to the spread of the virus. In addition, 27 per cent of local students (school aged) who have tested positive for COVID-19 since September have had symptoms that are not caught in the provincial screening tool, such as a runny nose, sore throat, headache, and more. To reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure within schools, enhanced screening will require that students stay home from school if they have any of the symptoms listed below.

Symptoms listed on Provincial School Screener HPEPH Additional Symptoms
  • Fever (37.8°C/100°F) and/or chills
  • Cough or barking cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Decrease or loss of taste or smell
  • Nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches and pain
  • Sore throat
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Abdominal pain
  • Headache
  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
  • Decreased or lack of appetite

Staff and students will not be permitted to attend school if they do not pass both the provincial and HPEPH screening tools. If these symptoms are identified while at school, the student/staff will be sent home until conditions of both the provincial and HPEPH screening are met.

To return to school, the symptomatic person must:

  • have received a negative COVID-19 test result and their symptoms have been improving significantly for at least 24 hours (48 hours for gastrointestinal symptoms);
  • OR they have received an alternative diagnosis from a health care professional.
  • OR have isolated for a minimum of 10 days since symptoms started; and
  • pass the daily screener

More information about the screening tool:

The HPEPH enhanced screening tool is available at  hpepublichealth.ca/school-screening. A printable PDF version is also available.

Testing options have been expanded beyond community assessment centres to include take-home testing, and testing at participating pharmacies. Please choose the testing option that is most convenient for you. For testing options, visit hpePublicHealth.ca/getting-tested-for-covid-19/

For more information about processes in place to protect your child in the classroom, visit hpePublicHealth.ca/back-to-school-planning-parents/

Other Measures

In addition, schools will:

  • Monitor for staff/students who are sent to school with other symptoms of COVID-19. If these symptoms are present, the individual will be sent home (unless the child has received a negative COVID-19 test result or alternate diagnosis since symptoms started).
  • Require masking when outdoors, if cohorts are not maintained in elementary schools;
  • Require masking in JK/SK classrooms and on school transportation.

Measures will be in place starting Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021 until further notice. 

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Media Contacts:

Maureen Hyland, Communications Specialist,
mhyland@hpeph.ca

Emily Tubbs, Communications Specialist
etubbs@hpeph.ca

About Hastings Prince Edward Public Health

Hastings Prince Edward Public Health (HPEPH) is a public health agency that serves the counties of Hastings and Prince Edward from four local offices. We monitor the health of our local population, deliver programs and services within our communities, and help develop healthy public policies. We provide information and support in many areas to help improve the health and well-being of our residents. Together with our communities, we help people become as healthy as they can be. For more information, please visit hpePublicHealth.ca. You can also find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

We invite community partners and residents to share this Media Release with their respective networks.

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COVID-19 PROTOCOLS

Symptoms or exposure? Visit www.ontario.ca/exposed for the most up to date information about what to do.

For the most up to date information on current provincial restrictions, visit https://covid-19.ontario.ca/public-health-measures.

The Ministry of Health has launched a new toll-free line as an additional resource to help answer questions from the public regarding evolving COVID-19 testing and isolation guidance. The line can be reached at 1-888-777-0730, and is available from 8 am to 6 pm, 7 days a week.

COVID-19 VACCINES IN HPEPH

Appointments for individuals 5+ can be booked through the provincial vaccine booking site, or by calling 1-833-943-3900 from 8 am to 8 pm, 7 days a week.  Visit the HPEPH vaccine booking web page for details.