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Screen your children each day before school for COVID symptoms: SMDHU

September 11, 2020   ·   0 Comments

Many students in Simcoe County return to school this week and the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit is urging parents to screen their kids each day for symptoms of COVID-19 before they head off for class.

This was the message driven home Tuesday afternoon by Dr. Charles Gardiner, Chief Medical Officer for the Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU).

Dr. Gardiner’s update came as the Province announced it would hold off on any further easing of restrictions for at least a month as Ontario sees a steady uptick of new cases of COVID-19.

New Tecumseth as well has seen an uptick in new cases over the past week, with two additional cases posted on September 8.

In addition to two cases reported on September 1 – a female aged 18 – 34 whose case is related to close contact and another, a male in the same demographic whose case is attributed to community acquisition – the new cases involve a female below the age of 17 and a male aged 80+. Both of these cases are due to close contact.

“What is really key right now for parents is to screen your children each day before they go to school to make sure they don’t have any symptoms or signs of COVID-19,” said Dr. Gardiner. “If they do develop symptoms, they are to be excluded from school and you would then be seeking medical advice and assessment on what to do next.

“We indicated that if [students] have indicated that they have symptoms that are consistent with COVID-19 persisting for more than a few hours that are not new or not related to seasonal allergies or pre-existing medical conditions that they should stay home. There are certainly children with allergies and it is an established condition for them [but] we’re not talking about that; we’re talking about something that is new, including [for] teachers.”

As students settle back into classrooms, teachers will remain vigilant, he added.

Should a teacher identify a student developing symptoms of COVID-19 at school, they would be put in a safe room and parents will be called to pick up their child to have them taken home for follow-up and assessment.

“If a student tests positive related to COVID-19, then we would conduct an assessment in order to determine whether or not there have been any exposures at school, whether they have been at school while they were contagious, which can be up to 48 hours before the onset of their symptoms,” said Dr. Gardiner. “If that is the case, then we would be assessing who they have been in contact with, their cohorts, classes. We would be looking at their class and if they were travelling on a school bus, we would be looking at that group as well. The schools keep records of attendance for everybody involved to make it easy for us to follow up and identify who needs to be excluded for a 14-day period, recommended for testing if they develop symptoms and for us to follow up with anybody who would be positive.”

Such measures, he added, need to be kept in place to “avoid a second wave” of COVID-19. The Simcoe-Muskoka community has seen “three small surges” since June that have subsequently come back down and “if we’re not careful this will keep going up.”

“We have seen in the past that many of our cases have been related to family gatherings, so you need to be careful about family gatherings and stick to your social circle of ten people,” he said. “If you have other family members beyond that social circle, you can see them but you have to maintain your distance of two metres from them in order to protect them. I think it is important that people be mindful of who is vulnerable now that children are heading to school; that is another opportunity potentially for transmission. Now that we’re getting more cases, some of them work-related, we have to think about our own social circle and protecting our social circle and identifying who is particularly at risk in our social circle.

“Transmission can happen at work, has happened at work, so employers need to have their employees self-screening for symptoms and [take] additional precaution as employers to screen for symptoms and exclude employees who have symptoms, to maintain physical distancing of two metres if at all possible, [and] if that isn’t possible to be using masks.”

By Brock Weir


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