COVID-19 School Case and Outbreak Communication Protocol

Updated 2021/08/23

Parents, students and staff will have an interest in knowing when a COVID-19 positive case has been identified in their school. Caution must used to inform the public while ensuring the identity of the student or staff member, that has received a positive COVID-19 test, is protected.

As outlined in the Ontario government's COVID-19: Health, safety and operational guidance for schools (2021-2022), all school boards are required to create a COVID-19 advisory section on their website. This section will provide information on confirmed cases of COVID-19 that involves students or staff members in a school setting.

To assist school boards/schools, the local health units will host outbreak information on their websites, whereby the school boards and schools can then provide direct links to this information from their own COVID-19 advisory sections. The Eastern Ontario Health Unit's school outbreak page can be found here.

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 that involve a student or a staff member in a school setting will be also be posted by the Ministry of Education.

Steps when a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19

  1. Confirmed case(s) is reported to the local Public Health Unit (PHU).
  2. PHU staff contacts school(s) and transportation consortium (if applicable) to retrieve records, including:
    • Attendance records
    • Class/cohort lists and seating charts
    • Before and after school child care lists
    • Transportation lists and seating charts
    • Current contact information for students/staff
    • Special assignments/programs/activities (e.g. Special Education)
    • Records of essential visitors

      NOTE: These lists are to be given to Public Health within a timely manner. These will be used to assist in identifying high risk, low risk and no risk exposures.
  3. Upon assessment, PHU informs school(s) of the staff/students that are high and low risk exposures, as well as, staff and students who are not at risk.
  4. School/school board uses internal communication channels to inform parents and staff using PHU letters. The local PHU will provide the school principal with the letters and identify which students/staff are to receive them.
    • Where a confirmed case of COVID-19 is a potential source of exposure to others in a school setting, the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) acts accordingly to notify those at risk of exposure. There may be variations in the delivery of notifications from case to case depending on the circumstances of the case in question. Where there is no risk of exposure, notification is not required.

  5. School will report positive cases through the Ministry reporting tool. The local PHUs will post outbreak information on their respective websites.
  6.  If a class or school is required to be closed based on PHU assessment, parents and school staff will be notified immediately. The local PHU will provide the school principal with a notice for circulation to the students/staff impacted.

*An outbreak in a school is defined as two or more lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in students and/or staff in a school with an epidemiological link, within a 14-day period, where at least one case could have reasonably acquired their infection in the school (including transportation and before or after school care).

Eastern Ontatio Health Unit / Bureau de santé de l'Ontario