COVID-19 in a Child Care Centre or School
- TBDHU is informed when a resident of the health unit area tests positive for COVID-19. When a report is received, public health quickly follows up with the individual. After ensuring that they are isolating and managing their illness, detailed information is gathered about the nature of interactions they had with other people during the period of time when they may have passed the virus on to others (the “infectious period”).
- If it is determined that the individual was in a child care centre or school (i.e. a child, a staff member, or a visitor) - then more information is gathered to assess the risk that the virus may have spread to others. Child care centres and schools are required to maintain records of attendance, cohorts and activities that they will provide to public health to assist in determining who may have been exposed to the individual in that setting. If the individual with COVID-19 was not in the child care centre or school when they were infectious, the virus would not have been transmitted, and no follow-up with the child care centre or school would be needed.
- Public health will work closely with the child care centre or school to ensure that anyone who is at risk for COVID-19 is informed and given instructions about what they need to do. Some individuals may be considered “high-risk contacts" where the risk that they may have caught the virus is higher. These individuals must self-isolate at home for 10 days (unless they are fully vaccinated or they previously tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days and they have been since cleared of their infection), and they will be followed by public health.
- If your child has been identified as a high-risk contact of a confirmed case of COVID-19, please refer to Important information for high-risk contacts of COVID-19. Public health will call as soon as possible to provide instructions, answer questions and gather information.
- Others will be considered not at elevated risk and can continue to attend child care or school with the guidance to be vigilant in monitoring for any symptoms. Public health will closely monitor the situation for period of time after any suspected exposure (usually two weeks or more as needed). During that time, if there is any indication that the virus has spread to others, public health will act quickly and introduce stronger measures to contain any ongoing spread of the virus.
- As a parent or caregiver, you would likely already be aware if your child was tested for COVID-19; perhaps because they had symptoms, or because they were exposed to someone with the virus. You may have already spoken with public health or a health care provider about your child.
- If your child’s test comes back positive, public health will contact you. Your child must self-isolate and take appropriate precautions to reduce the risk of spreading the virus to others, including household members. Public health will follow up regularly to check on them, answer questions, and provide ongoing support and recommendations to help manage through this time. Public health will also advise when your child is considered ‘cleared’ of the virus and can resume their regular activities, including returning to child care or school.
- A repeat test is not needed - and is not recommended - for someone to be considered ‘cleared’ or ‘resolved’ of their COVID-19 infection. Your child must stay in self-isolation at home and not return to child care, school or other activities in the community until public health advises that it is okay for them to do so.
- If your child has been identified as a high-risk contact of a confirmed case of COVID-19, please refer to Important information for high-risk contacts of COVID-19. A public health professional will call as soon as possible to provide instructions, answer questions and gather information.
- Public health follows up with anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 to identify individuals who may have been exposed to the virus through their interactions with them. These individuals are often referred to as “close contacts”. Depending on the nature of the exposure, they are identified as being either at higher risk or lower risk. To assess the level of risk, public health considers factors such as location, length of time, activities, distance apart, and the protective measures that were practiced at the time.
- If an exposure to COVID-19 occurred at a child care centre or school, the facility will provide public health detailed information, including contact information for parents/caregivers. Child care centres and schools are expected to maintain various records in order to assist public health with the quick identification of contacts and management of COVID-19 exposures in those settings.
- If your child has been identified as a high-risk contact of someone who has COVID-19, you will be contacted directly by public health. They will get additional information from you and your child, will tell you what you and your child need to do and will answer your questions. High-risk contacts must self-isolate at home and monitor for symptoms (unless they are fully vaccinated or they previously tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days and they have been since clear of their infection). Testing for COVID-19 will be recommended in most circumstances. Public health can assist in accessing testing if and when that is needed. They will continue to support you and your child through regular contact with you, through the self-isolation period and will advise when your child can return to child care or school. Your child must not return to regular activities until public health advises that it is okay for them to do so.
- Please ensure the child care centre or school has up-to-date contact information so public health can reach you, during the day, as well as in evenings and on weekends.
- Public health will not reveal the name or personal information of anyone who has COVID-19.
Symptoms and Screening
- Preventing individuals who may have COVID-19 from entering a workplace, facility or business, is an important part of reducing the risk of COVID-19 passing to other people. The same applies for child care centres and schools.
- Anyone entering a child care or school setting is required to screen prior to entering - including children, staff, and any others permitted.
- Parents/caregivers are expected to screen their child(ren) prior to leaving for child care or school in the morning using either of the following tools:
- Ontario COVID-19 School and Child Care Screening Tool (online version)
- Ontario COVID-19 School and Child Care Screening Tool (PDF version)
- Follow the instructions provided in the screening tool. More details can also be found on the Child with Symptoms & When to Return page.
- Signs are posted at child care centres and schools reminding people to screen themselves for symptoms and to not enter the facility if they have symptoms consistent with COVID-19 or if they have a risk of exposure to COVID-19. Child care centres and schools can also limit where people enter the facility to ensure that everyone is aware of the screening expectations.
- Child care centres and schools are required to designate a place in the facility where individuals who develop symptoms while in that setting can go to be separated from others.
- Individuals in that space will be expected to wear a medical mask, practice good hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, with proper disposal of any tissues used. A medical mask will be provided and any cloth mask/face covering your child was wearing while be placed in a bag or container and returned to you. If there is more than one individual in the space, they will keep physically distanced (i.e. be apart by 2 metres or more).
- Child care centres and schools are required to arrange enhanced cleaning when individuals vacate the space.
- The child care centre or school will contact you if your child has symptoms and your child will need to be picked up as soon as possible. They will not be able to go on the school bus or public transit to get home. Older students who are only mildly symptomatic and are able to get home (eg. walking or biking), can return home on their own if both you and the school agree on this. The student should be alone or be at least 2 metres apart from anyone else they are traveling with.
There are a number of reasons when your child must stay home and not go to child care or school. These include:
- The daily screening indicated that your child must not attend child care or school for whatever reason (this is also called “failing the screen”).
- They have symptoms of COVID-19 that are new or worsening or are different from the child's usual state. Refer to the Ontario COVID-19 School and Child Care Screening Tool and the Child with Symptoms & When to Return page for specific symptoms and corresponding instructions.
- They are recovering from being sick. For details on when they can return to child care or school and other activities, see the Child with Symptoms & When to Return page.
- They are a household member of someone who has symptoms of COVID-19. NON-fully vaccinated household members of symptomatic individuals must self-isolate.
- If they are fully vaccinated or if they have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days, they are not required to stay home as long as they do not have symptoms themselves. Please see Guidance for Fully Vaccinated Individuals and You Previously Tested Positive for COVID-19 for details.
- If symptoms develop, self-isolate and seek testing (even if they are fully vaccinated and even if they previously tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days and they have been since cleared of their infection).
- Public health has advised you that they need to self-isolate at home because they have had a high-risk contact with someone who has COVID-19 in the household, community, child care or at school.
- They have returned from travel outside of Canada in the last 14 days and are required to self-isolate under the federal Quarantine Act.
Note that in many of the above circumstances your child should be able to participate in home-based learning activities that your child’s school may have arranged if they are feeling well enough.
Other Important Information
Continue talking with your child to help them adjust. Times like this can have significant impact on emotional and mental health. Take advantage of the various supports that are available through your child’s school, in the community and online to promote the overall health and well-being of your child.
Masks are required (with some exceptions) for students in Grades 1-12 and are encouraged for students in Kindergarten. This is particularly important for children who take the school bus.
Try to find masks that are comfortable for your child to wear. Encourage them to practice wearing a mask for longer periods of time.
Note that if your child feels unwell when at school or gets symptoms, your child, regardless of their age, will be given a medical mask to wear while waiting to get picked up from school.
- Have a back-up plan for when your child cannot go to school. Your child may be more absent from in-person instruction this year compared to other years because of the pandemic. There are many reasons for why your child should not go to school or child care - see the Child with Symptoms & When to Return page for details. Your child’s school may have options for participating in home-based learning while they are at home.
- Have plans for how your child can get home from school during the day if needed. If your child develops symptoms when at school, they will need to be pick up from school as soon as possible. Your child will not be able to take the school bus home or attend child care or after school programs.
- Ensure that your contact information and emergency contact information is always up-to-date with your child’s school. There are a number of reasons why the school may need to contact you during the school day or afterwards. Also, schools will provide contact information to public health if it's needed to get in touch with you about your child.
- Consider alternatives to taking the school bus if possible. Active transportation, like walking or biking, are good options if they are feasible. A group of students can do this together to get to school as long as they can maintain physical distancing.