Public Health Sudbury & Districts – all hands on deck to support a COVID-safe return to school

With schools reopening their doors in a pandemic, the focus is on safety for students and staff. Public Health Sudbury & Districts is working actively with school boards in our service area to ensure they have the Public Health supports they need for a healthy and successful return to school.

“Our goal is to provide clear guidance in these uncertain times to support families and school communities,” said Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, Medical Officer of Health with Public Health Sudbury & Districts. “We recognize that return to school is anxiety-causing for many students, educators, and all who care for and about students. We urge everyone to follow the Top 10 COVID-19 Basic Rules for Safe Schools. And, make no mistake—we are all responsible for successful school opening. The best way to protect schools and kids is by the actions of all of us to keep COVID-19 out of our communities,” added Dr. Sutcliffe.

Public Health has developed various resources for schools, school boards, and parents to help them follow COVID-safe school protocols. For example, a visual roadmap was created to help schools understand the steps to take if a student, staff, or visitor becomes ill at school.

“We are ready to support schools and provide immediate assistance to prevent cases and to respond if cases of COVID-19 are reported,” said Dr. Sutcliffe. “Public Health Sudbury & Districts has reorganized to focus dedicated staff resources on school support. This is our first ever modern-day school opening in the midst of a pandemic. We need all hands on deck,” added Dr. Sutcliffe.

There are various protocols in place to protect students and staff if they develop symptoms while at school or if there is a positive case reported in a school.

Student developing symptoms at school

New to the daily “to-do” list is checking for symptoms of illness. Every day, parents and guardians (and students themselves) must check for symptoms and not allow students to go to school if they have any COVID-19 symptoms. If a student starts to feel unwell while at school, they must let an adult know right away. The student will be kept apart from others while waiting to be picked up. Parents or guardians will be asked to have their child’s symptoms assessed and determine if testing is needed. If testing is not needed, the student can return to school after being symptom-free for at least 24 hours. If testing is needed, the student must stay away from school and self-isolate until test results are known. If testing is needed but families choose not to proceed with testing, students are required to self-isolate and be away from school for 14 days, unless Public Health directs otherwise.

Getting tested

Anyone with at least one COVID-19 symptom should consider testing. If parents need support, they should seek advice from their health care provider or use the online self-assessment tool to determine if testing is advised. Visit https://www.phsd.ca/health-topics-programs/diseases-infections/coronavirus#onlineassessment.

If the self-assessment tool or your health care provider recommends COVID-19 testing and a parent or guardian chooses not to proceed, the student will have to stay away from school and self-isolate for 14 days unless Public Health advises otherwise. Self-isolation also applies to caregivers if they themselves cannot isolate from the person who has symptoms (for example, is a young child).

Cases of COVID-19 schools

If a case of COVID-19 is reported in a school, each specific situation will be handled based on the findings of Public Health’s investigation. Public Health will work very closely with school principals in these instances. Anyone who was in close contact with the case (person infected) will be advised to go home and self isolate for 14 days and get tested for COVID-19. This could include other students or teacher(s) from the person’s class, school transportation, extracurricular activities, and before- and after-school programs. If two or more confirmed COVID-19 cases in students or staff in a school are linked to each other, an outbreak will be declared by Public Health. In these situations, the Medical Officer of Health will determine who must stay away from school and self-isolate and be tested.

For more information or if you have questions or concerns, please visit phsd.ca/COVID-19 and consult relevant resources including information for back-to-school. These include, for example, resources and posters, frequently asked questions and answers, parent letters, self-assessment tools and symptoms lists, instructions on wearing masks, information about what to do if your child shows symptoms, and many other topics. The site is updated routinely with new resources, information, and current guidance. You may also call Public Health Sudbury & Districts at 705.522.9200 (toll-free 1.866.522.9200).

This item was last modified on September 4, 2020