Health Unit prepares for COVID cases in schools

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By Nick Seebruch
Health Unit prepares for COVID cases in schools

CORNWALL, Ontario – The Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) is working with local schools and school boards to help manage COVID-19 and any possible outbreaks.

Public health unit nurses will be aiding with contact tracing and case management for any COVID-19 infections, and schools have heightened their hygienic and social distancing practices.

“Our priority is to make the school year as safe as possible for everyone,” said Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, Medical Officer of Health for the EOHU. “With the return to in-person classes, it’s possible that we may see some cases of COVID-19 at our local schools. However, parents should be assured that plans are in place to quickly identify cases and their contacts, along with infection prevention measures that will help protect students and minimize spread of the virus in schools.”

If there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 at a school, the school and the health unit will work to assess the situation, isolate contacts, and notify families.

Outbreaks will be posted on school websites as well as at the health unit.

According to outbreak management guidelines provided to school boards by the province of Ontario, if a communicable case of COVID-19 is discovered at a school, that student, their cohort, as well as any close contacts or siblings could be sent home to self-isolate for 14 days. If multiple cohorts from one school are sent home, then the school could be closed for 14 days.

RELATED: Provincial outbreak management guidelines

The Health Unit states that its assessment of the situation will determine if classes should be cancelled or if a school should be closed if a COVID-19 case is discovered.

Dr. Roumeliotis acknowledged that with the return to school, many common ailments like the common cold or the flu will begin to spread and that those viruses share similar symptoms to COVID-19.

“We’re urging everyone to remain vigilant for possible COVID-19 symptoms, and to stay home if they are ill or experiencing symptoms,” he said. “However, we are also cautioning against jumping to conclusions that all respiratory symptoms or absences from school are related to COVID-19, since in many cases symptoms may be due to other causes.”

Parents will be asked to use a screening tool to screen their children for symptoms daily and teachers will be asked to use an online COVID-19 assessment tool for themselves.

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