Frequently Asked Questions: School During COVID-19

Updated 2020-11-27

Below are answers to commonly asked questions about the return to school during COVID-19. Please visit this page regularly, as it will continue to be updated with the latest information.

COVID-19 Screening, Symptoms and Testing:

Masks/Face Coverings:

Food/Drink in Schools:

Visitors at the School:

Classroom Environment:

School Environment:

School Transportation:

COVID-19 Case Management and Contact Tracing:

COVID-19 Screening, Symptoms and Testing:

What are the COVID-19 screening expectations for students and school staff?

Students and staff must self-screen every day before getting on a school vehicle or attending school using Ontario’s COVID-19 School and Chilc Care Screening . Parents can use this COVID-19 screening tool to help them make decisions about their child’s attendance at school that day and what to do should their child have symptoms. Parents are not required to communicate that they have completed the daily screen.

If a parent or other adult needs to complete a screening for COVID-19, can they use the School COVID-19 Screening Tool?

No.  If you are an adult who needs to complete a screening for COVID-19, you must use the COVID-19 Self-assessment Tool. It is important to use the right assessment tool since some symptoms that are not considered typical of COVID-19 in children and youth are in fact symptoms of COVID-19 in adults.  

I need more information to feel confident in my assessment, what do I do?

If you need additional information about COVID-19 or have a question specific to your childand their health, please contact your health care provider

If a child or a member of a child’s household has COVID-19-like symptoms and is excluded from school, must other household members isolate/stay home from school/work as well?

If a household member presents symptoms of COVID-19 not linked to a chronic condition or another reason, other household members who are symptom-free do not need to isolate/stay home, but must monitor for symptoms and follow public health measures. The symptomatic person must isolate and stay home from school/work.

My child has woken up not feeling well, what do I do?

If you notice that your child has new or worsening symptoms, what you do depends on the symptom and how usual they are for your child.

If your child has new or worsening fever/chills, cough. shortness of breath, decreased or loss of smell or taste, your child should isolate immediately and you should contact your child’s health providerfor further advice or assessment. The health care provider can help you determine whether the symptoms are related to another non-COVID-19 condition, or if they should get tested for COVID-19.

If your child has ONE new or worsening symptom (that is not related to a known cause or condition) that include sore throat, stuffy nose/runny nose, headache, nausea/vomiting/diarrhea, fatigue/lethargy/muscle aches/malaise, your child should stay home for 24 hours to be monitored to see whether the symptom gets better or worse. If they start to feel better and the symptom is improving, they can return to school/child care when well enough to do so and no COVID-19 testing is needed. If the symptom gets worse or your child develops additional symptoms, you should contact their health care provider for further advice or assessment. The health care provider can help you determine whether the symptoms are related to another non-COVID-19 condition, or if they should get tested for COVID-19.

If your child has TWO or MORE new or worsening symptoms (that are not related to a known cause or condition) that include sore throat, stuffy nose/runny nose, headache, nausea/vomiting/diarrhea, fatigue/lethargy/muscle aches/malaise,your child should isolate immediately and you should contact your child’s health provider for further advice or assessment. The health care provider can help you determine whether the symptoms are related to another non-COVID-19 condition, or if they should get tested for COVID-19.

Please see Return to School Protocols during COVID-19.

Who in my family needs to be tested along with my child?

If your child has been identified as needing a test and everyone else in the family is well, no testing of other family members is needed. If your child tests positive for COVID-19, the local public health unit will contact you/your child and make a plan for additional testing of all close contacts.

Do I need a note from a doctor before my child goes back to school/child care or a copy of a negative test result?

No: The local Health Units are not recommending or requiring medical notes or proof of a negative test before your child returns to school/ childcare. Schools can request that parents complete the Back to School/ Child Care Confirmation form to attest that their child is safe to return to school.

Are children living with essential cross border workers required to self-isolate each time their household member returns from international travel?

As essential cross border workers are exempted from federal quarantine requirements, children living with them should be exempted from a similar quarantine. It is recommended to self-monitor for COVID-19-like symptoms. The school board should require daily screening for the child prior to attending school. The same guidelines would apply for any school board employee who shares a household with an essential cross border worker.

A school board employee or student is accepting an individual into their home for their 14-day quarantine period following international travel. Is the employee or student required to isolate themselves for this 14-day quarantine period as well?

If they have not been in contact with the individual who is on 14-day quarantine, they are not required to self-isolate. It is possible to share common areas without being in contact as long as they stay 2 metres away, clean and sanitize commonly touched surfaces and wear masks. Ideally, the individual should stay in a completely separated area during the quarantine period.* If they cannot separate from others in the household, the students and/or staff in this situation would not be permitted to enter the school.

* It is recommended that the individuals who are in quarantine have totally separate living spaces. Caution should be taken with delivering meals:  put a tray outside of the living space and pick it up from that same location when done. If possible, they should wear gloves when removing the trays from the living space, immediately discard any leftover food and wash dishes in hot soapy water or dishwasher. As well, anything that comes in contact with the tray should be thoroughly cleaned. Of course, individuals should perform thorough hand hygiene following the removal of gloves.

Masks/Face Coverings:

Who must wear a mask/ face covering at school?

The Ministry of Education has mandated that staff wear masks, as well as students in grades 4 to 12. Students in grades 4 and up are required to wear non-medical or cloth masks/face coverings on school vehicles and indoors while at school, including in hallways and during classes. Reasonable exceptions on the requirement to wear masks apply. Students in kindergarten to grade 3 are encouraged, but not required, to wear masks in indoor spaces. However, the EOHU and School Transportation of Eastern Ontario (STEO) is highly recommending that students in kindergarten to grade 3 wear non-medical face coverings/masks while traveling on school vehicles, while the Eastern School Transport Consortium requires that all students and staff wear a masks or face covering on school vehicle.

All school-based staff will be required to wear medical/procedural masks, with reasonable exceptions for medical conditions.

Who should not wear a mask/face covering?

The following students’/staff should not wear a mask/face covering

    • Children under the age of two;
    • Individuals with medical conditions that make them unable to safely wear a mask, including breathing difficulties or cognitive difficulties;
    • Anyone who is unable to remove it without assistance.

    Is medical documentation required from a parent if their child cannot wear a face covering/mask?

    No, medical documentation is not required.

    Why are students under grade 4 not required to wear masks/face coverings?

    According to the SickKids Guidance document, “data from multiple countries suggest that children under 10 years of age are probably less likely to transmit (COVID-19) than older children or adults”.  As well, younger children are less likely to use masks properly, and may not be able to tolerate wearing them for longer periods. While it is not required for students under grade 4 to wear face coverings, it is highly recommended that they wear one when physical distancing is difficult to maintain in enclosed spaces, such as on a school vehicle. The EOHU and School Transportation of Eastern Ontario (STEO) is highly recommending that students in kindergarten to grade 3 wear non-medical face coverings/masks while traveling on school vehicles, while the Eastern School Transport Consortium requires that all students and staff wear a masks or face covering on school vehicle.

    The installation of a physical barrier (such as plexiglass around a desk or partition at a shared table) is an acceptable and sufficient alternative measure when physical distancing cannot be maintained and mask are not required to be worn by students (such as in grades 3 and under or those with medical exemptions).

    Why are students in grades 4 to 12 required to wear masks/face coverings?

    According to the SickKids Guidance document, “there are emerging data suggesting that children 10 years and older may transmit (COVID-19) at rates similar to those of adults”. Face coverings are an added public health measure to reduce the spread of COVID-19. They help to keep an individual’s own respiratory droplets within the face covering. Older students may be able to wear a face covering for longer periods of time than younger children, without close monitoring. As well, they may be more likely to follow safe practices for wearing them.

    In a grade 3-4 split class, will the grade 3 students be required to wear masks/face coverings?

    The local Medical Officers of Health highly recommend that all students in the grade 3-4 class wear masks/face coverings.

    Which types of masks are required for students, staff, and visitors to the schools?

    Staff and visitors should wear medical masks (i.e. surgical or procedural).

    Students are encouraged to wear non-medical or cloth masks/face coverings. A non-medical mask (face covering) can be the disposable type or made of cloth. A cloth mask (face covering) should be made of at least three layers of tightly woven material, such as cotton or linen. The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends a 3-layer mask which includes a middle, filter layer. A 2-layer mask can still be used. If making or buying more masks, consider the 3-layer mask for improved protection

    Masks (face coverings) should allow for easy breathing, fit securely to the head with ties or ear loops, be comfortable, not require frequent adjustment, and fit securely to cover the nose, mouth, and chin without gaping. Bandanas, scarfs, and gaiter masks that meet these requirements are acceptable face coverings.
    Safe masking practices should be reinforced with children and youth before they wear one. Learn how to wear one properly in this infographic.

    What is the difference between non-medical (e.g. cloth) masks/face coverings and medical masks?

    Non-medical masks/cloth face coverings and medical masks do not offer the same protection. Non-medical masks/face coverings are used for “source control”, meaning they protect those around the person wearing the mask and not the person themselves. They keep an individual’s own respiratory secretions contained within the cloth mask (face covering).

    Medical masks (i.e. surgical or procedural) are personal protective equipment. They provide protection for the user from the respiratory secretions of others while protecting for others from the respiratory secretions of the user. Procedural and surgical masks are not N95-Grade equipment, which is a specific device reserved for medical aerosolized interventions. The medical masks recommended for school staff are the same ones used by the EOHU’s Public Health Nurses when collecting COVID-19 samples at the assessment centre.

    Can a face shield be used instead of a mask in school?

    Face shields are intended to be used as eye protection and are not a substitute for wearing a face mask. A face shield does not filter respiratory droplets. Respiratory droplets expelled by the wearer may escape around the sides of the face shield, which therefore provides less protection to others. While a face shield is not a substitute for a mask, it may be worn by someone who is unable to wear a mask due to breathing or cognitive difficulties, as it would be better than wearing nothing.

    What is the proper way to put on and remove a mask (face covering)?

    Learn how to put on and remove a mask (face covering) with these resources:

    When can students remove their masks/face coverings?

    Please refer to your child’s school board’s return-to-school plan for details on when/where your child can remove their mask/face covering while at school:

    Should masks be worn during gym class?

    It is also not recommended to wear a mask when exercising, such as during physical education class. Teachers should adjust activities to ensure that there is sufficient space in the gymnasium or outdoors for adequate physical distancing (2 metres) between student/staff.

    When students remove their masks/face coverings, where should they be stored?

    Students can store their masks (face coverings) on a hook attached to their desks, hanging it by the ear loop. A used mask(face covering) may also be stored in a clean container until ready to use again. Disposable masks should be thrown out in a proper garbage bin and not reused or recycled.

    If my child has a hearing impairment, can an educator wear a clear mask?

    School staff are required by the Province to wear surgical/procedural masks in schools. These types of masks are considered Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Health Canada has approved use of the “Clearmask Transparent Face Mask” manufactured by Clearmask LLC as PPE.

    Food/Drink in Schools:

    What are the recommendations for lunchtime?

    Students will eat lunch in their classroom with their cohort, where possible. Lunch times may be staggered to allow students to wash their hands before eating, without creating congestion in washrooms or hand washing stations. Hand sanitizer will be offered if hand washing is difficult. If weather permits, lunch breaks may take place outside. Students must not share food or drinks. Self-serving food items will be removed (e.g. “toast station” or self-serve bins). Microwaves are not permitted as per Ministry guidelines.

    For situations where physical distancing of students or desks is not possible within the classroom, should the removal of masks by students during lunch or snack time be staggered?

    Multiple layers of prevention/protection from infection exist within the schools, notably screening, physical distancing, frequent handwashing, and masks wearing. Therefore, when one type of public health measure is removed or not ideal (e.g. physical distancing in this case), it becomes imperative that others are enhanced, such as handwashing or staggering meals or snack times, when possible. If it is not possible to stagger meal/snack times within the classroom, then emphasis on handwashing before and after eating should be done.

    Can school nutrition programs be offered?

    Yes. The program can be delivered in a way that any student who wishes to participate can do so. “Grab and Go formats” are preferred. All surfaces, bins and containers for food will be disinfected prior to and after each use. Self-serving food items (e.g. “toast station” or self-serve bins) will be removed. Please see this factsheet for more details on Student Nutrition Programs during COVID-19.

    Can students use water fountains?

    Water fountains will be disabled or used only to fill bottles. Students should have their own drink bottles that are labeled and kept with them during the day.

    Visitors at the School:

    Can parents enter the school?  

    Schools are asked to restrict visitors, including parents. Communication with parents can occur mainly through virtual or phone methods. If it is deemed essential that the parent enters the school, the parent must self-screen for COVID-19 using the poster at the entrance. The office administrator will then verify that the parent completed the screen through the intercom or when they enter the building. Parents must complete hand hygiene upon entering and are required to wear a medical mask (i.e. surgical/procedural) while on the school premise. Records of visitor attendance will be kept.

    Who can visit the school?

    Schools will restrict visitors to only those who are essential. Visits to ensure school safety, such as inspections by the Ministry of Labour, Fire Marshal’s office or by public health, can continue to take place. All visitors to a school are required to self-screen, wear a medical/procedural mask while on school premise and conduct hand hygiene upon entering. For the delivery of school-based supports and services by an external community-based agency, local protocols for school access by regulated health professionals, regulated social service professionals and paraprofessionals are developed.

    Can parents/guardians come to the school to give medications to their children, if needed?

    Medications/treatment can continue to be given by staff members to the student, as per the instructions in the child’s care plan, which is completed by the parents and confirmed with the school. If a parent is required to be present to provide the medication/treatment, the school and the parents will establish a plan to ensure the child receives their medication/treatment.

    Classroom Environment:

    Should physical distancing be practiced within a class cohort?

    In a class cohort, physical distancing of 2 metres is an important protective measure. Face coverings/masks must be worn indoors. During outdoor activities, such as recess, physical distancing is not as critical as long as close contact (e.g. hugging) is avoided.

    Why are we hearing about different physical distancing recommendations for schools versus community (e.g. 1 metre versus 2 metres)?

    Research shows that the risk of COVID-19 is decreased significantly with a 1 metre separation. It decreases even further with 2 metres. Currently, 2 metres is defined as the protective distancing recommended by the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Health. Given the Ministry of Education has decided that students in our schools, who have decided to attend school in person, will all attend five days a week it is possible that some students may be closer to 1 metre away from each other in the classroom because of limited space. The report by the Hospital for Sick Children on school opening does indicate that a 1 metre distance separation would be protective.

    Can students sit on carpeted area?

    If sitting on floors, schools should consider having wipeable mats designated to each student. They should also encourage hand hygiene before and after sitting on the floor.

    How does a student give their teacher an item (e.g. a note from parent)? Will the teacher accept anything from home?

    Electronic communication is promoted, where possible. If receiving an item from a student, the teacher should perform hand hygiene after touching the item and avoid touching their face with unclean hands.

    Are children able to bring materials such as book bags and school material back and forth each day?

    Yes. Students can only bring what is needed that day. Only essential items should be brought to school. A list will help parents and students to pack the appropriate items. For a specific list of essential items, please consult your child’s school or school board website. All personal items should be labeled.

    Why are some schools allowing students to keep book bags in the classroom and barring the use of lockers or cubbies at this time?

    We now know that the virus transmits primarily from one person to another and that it is unlikely that the virus remains viable on plastic and cloth surfaces. Therefore, the risk transporting the virus on one’s backpack from school to the home (and vice-versa) is quite low. With enhanced screening and hand hygiene practices in schools, allowing students to keep their belonging with them in a book bag in class is a “happy medium” to reduce the risk of students congregating in the hallways at their locker or cubbies, which would not allow for physical distancing and increase the risk of transmitting the virus.  Schools and school boards are currently working on a plan on how/where students will store their winter apparel when this season arrives.

    What precautions are recommended for locker & cubbie use?

    While attention to objects and surfaces is very important, in the sense that routine cleaning and disinfection will reduce how much of the virus is on them, what people should remember most is that proper hand hygiene is more important in reducing the risk of transmitting infection among people. The CDC states that while COVID-19 can survive on some types of surfaces for different lengths of time, transmission through contact with contaminated surfaces is not thought to be a major contributor to the spread of COVID-19, particularly in comparison to COVID-19’s predominant modes of spread through inhalation of respiratory droplets from an infected person and direct contact with an infected person.

    A bigger concern than merely touching a contaminated surface would be a student bringing a contaminated hand, and therefore bringing the virus, to his/her eyes, nose or mouth.

    As such, messaging about hand hygiene applies just as much to using lockers: never touch your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands; wash hands with soap and water after touching surfaces or use an alcohol-based hand rub.

    Important tips:

    • Wash hands with soap and water after touching lockers or use an alcohol-based hand rub; never touch your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands following locker use
    • Limit personal effects brought to class
    • Maintain physical distance for access to lockers / cubicles
    • Space out lockers / cubicles used as much as possible (e.g. use every 2 or 3 lockers) or provide alternate times for students to access
    • Ensure the cleaning of frequently touched surfaces. Please see this Public Health Ontario fact sheet for cleaning and disinfection in public settings.
    • Avoid using lockers if it causes congestion/congregation in the hallways.
    • Ensure the safety of students and staff members in the classroom if items are left at student desks (in regards to wet floors, trip hazards).

    What precautions should be taken around school supplies and equipment?  How are teachers expected to manage touching of shared items (blocks, toys, equipment for hospitality and science class, etc.)?

    It is important to consider the risk of contracting an illness versus ensuring what the students need for healthy social interactions. Emphasis on practicing hand hygiene prior to and after the students handle shared objects is strongly recommended. Ideally, where possible, students are designated their own supplies. If supplies must be shared, they should be cleaned and disinfected between each use, or at least between each cohort. Should equipment be used by multiple students at the time (e.g. in a science laboratory or hospitality class), then students should wear masks and maintain the same groups throughout the semester.

    Are children allowed to leave the classroom during class time to go to the washroom?

    Yes. One student at a time is recommended. Before going, students will be reminded to practice physical distancing. For a group of children, a monitor is recommended. Students will be encouraged to wash their hands afterwards and to use hand sanitizer when they return to class to ensure their hands are clean. Teachers will keep a log within their classroom of what time their students left the classroom and what time they returned, for the purpose of contact tracing.

    What about scheduled hand washing/hand hygiene during the school day?  

    Students should perform hand hygiene upon entering and before exiting the building, after using the washroom, before and after eating, before and after playtime with shared equipment, and before putting on their mask and after taking it off.

    A child is upset or has hurt themself. Can staff give them a hug to console them?

    It is important to meet the emotional and social needs of a child in distress. Therefore, while physical contact poses some risk of infection, measures such as staff wearing medical masks and visors will help protect both the wearer and those around them, reducing that level of risk, so that one can comfort a child through a hug if required.

    Can teachers sing as part of their instruction?

    The EOHU is currently discouraging school staff from singing in class. While we do recommend the use of a Plexiglas barrier for those singing indoors, it may encourage the students to sing at the same time (which is not recommended). Humming is an alternative (although not ideal) option.

    If educators would like to include signing in their instruction, another option would be to do so outside while ensuring the children are spaced at least 3 meters apart. For younger groups of children, it would be important to have visual markers to remind them of minimum 3-metre distance (e.g. hula hoops or cones that mark their spots).

    What are the recommendations regarding music classes at this time?

    Activities in music classes may pose an increased risk of transmission for numerous reasons, notably due to the possibility of transmission due production of infectious droplets while playing a wind or brass instrument or touching / blowing into an instrument recently used by an infected person. Therefore, the EOHU is recommending the following precautions for music classes:

    • The use of wind/brass instruments is not permitted.
    • Do not allow students to share instruments or accessories
      • If shared, clean as per standard protocol for the instrument after each use and between users. Use a disinfectant or alcohol wipe when possible
      • Do not share cleaning cloths or instrument brushes
    • Increase physical distance between students or use plexiglass barriers between students/staff if physical distancing cannot be maintained.
    • Consider outdoor music classes, with increased physical distancing between students.

    According to Public Health Ontario, given the lack of data relating to the potential for transmission related to wind instruments and the effectiveness of interventions for reducing aerosol dispersion, it is unclear if musician masks or instrument covers would significantly affect potential viral respiratory transmission.

    Further suggestions on how to teach the subject while limiting risk can be found in the document by the Ontario Music Educator’s Association: A Framework for The Return to Music Classes in 2020/2021.  

    School boards have chosen various approaches to music classes. Please consult your child’s school/school board for more information on their decision on how their schools plan to provide music classes.

    School Environment:

    Should schools allow students into their libraries and gyms during school hours?

    At this time, large gatherings of staff and students are not advised. Gymnasiums and libraries can only be used where physical distancing measures can be followed. The use of these spaces will be limited to one class cohort at a time and cleaned and disinfected between cohorts, focusing on commonly touched surfaces and shared equipment.

    Are there special considerations for fire drills & lock downs?

    In emergency situations, maintaining a physical distance of 2 metres is not necessary if it affects safety. When practicing emergency measures, physical distancing will be encouraged where possible.

    What signage must be visible in the school?

    Schools will provide visual cues, such as tape on floors or sidewalks and signs on walls, to guide appropriate distances in lines and one-way traffic flow patterns. Signs will be posted at the entrances to the school to remind visitors and students about COVID-19 screening requirements. Hand washing and hand sanitizing posters displayed in bathrooms and by hand sanitizing stations will serve as additional reminders on how to perform these tasks. Signage for bathrooms indicating the maximum capacity for each room should be considered.

    Is it safe to have hand sanitizer in schools? Are there specific guidelines for their use?

    Yes. Hand sanitizer should be available in school entrances and exits and in classrooms. Schools will ensure the safe placement of the Alcohol Based Hand Rub (ABHR) to avoid consumption, especially for young children. The Ontario Office of the Fire Marshall states that ABHR products are dispensed in small quantities, thus the fire hazards they present are minimal. Precautions as outlined in the Safe Practices for the Use of Alcohol-Based Hand Rub should be used.

    What are public health recommendations for using school play structures?

    Play structures will be used with proper supervision to limit the number of students on the equipment and to ensure that only one cohort uses the equipment at a time. Students should practice proper hand hygiene before and after using the equipment. Routine cleaning of surfaces on playgrounds, including high touch surfaces made of plastic or metal, requires soap and water, but not disinfectant. Cleaning of wooden surfaces is not recommended.  Some schools or school boards may decide to close their play structures.

    Must recess time (outside) be staggered per class?

    Different class cohorts may be on the playground at the same time if the playground is large enough and there is a way to decrease the opportunity for each cohort from mixing. Limiting student congregation in hallways as they exit for recess is important. For this reason, recess may need to be staggered.

    Can schools accept international students?

    If students from other countries are permitted to come to Canada by governments, international students can be accepted into schools. Schools must notify the local Health Unit of any international students. If the Government of Canada’s emergency order under the Quarantine Act is still in place, students must comply with this order to isolate for 14 days. For information on the latest travel advisories and mandatory isolation visit:

    Can student orientation sessions be held?

    Large gatherings/assemblies should be cancelled for the immediate future. Schools may offer these sessions virtually.

    School Transportation:

    What precautions are being taken on school vehicles?

    • Students who live in the same household are expected to sit together, while single riders may be grouped with classmates, to the extent possible.
    • Students will have assigned seats and a record of the seating plan will be kept to assist public health with contact tracing.
    • The use of medical masks and eye protection (i.e. face shields) will be required for school bus drivers.
    • There will be enhanced cleaning and disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces (e.g., handrails, seatbacks).
    • Students are encouraged to wash/sanitize their hands before and after the trip. 
    • It is highly recommended that students from JK to grade 3 wear a mask. Those in grades 4 to grade 12 students must wear a mask, unless exempted. The Eastern School Transport Consortium requires that all students and staff wear a masks or face covering on school vehicle.
    • Where possible, the seat directly behind the school bus driver will remain empty.
    • Windows are opened when feasible to increase ventilation.
    • Students will unload from the front to the back, one seat at a time, while maintaining physical distancing between them.

    For more information, visit your child’s transportation authority’s website:

    Can a parent get out of their vehicle when dropping off their child?

    If required, parents can assist their child in going to their assigned outdoor locations. Parents are encouraged to keep their child close to them, to maintain a physical distance with others, and to avoid gathering and socializing with other parents and staff on school property.

    COVID-19 Case Management and Contact Tracing

    A student is not feeling well during the school day. What are the next steps?

    Please see Managing Students with COVID-19 Symptoms at School – Instructions for Staff.

    What happens when a staff member or student tests positive for COVID-19 in a school?

    For more details, please see School Protocol When Staff or Students Test Positive for COVID-19.

    What is considered an outbreak in a school?

    An outbreak would be declared in a school once it has been determined that there are two or more lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in students and/or staff with an epidemiological link within a 14-day period. Public health will investigate to determine that at least one case acquired the infection at school (including transportation and before or after school care) before an outbreak is declared, since it is possible that children could have been infected outside the school setting.

    What happens when an outbreak is declared in a school?

    Once an outbreak in a school is confirmed, the EOHU will contact all students (or their parents) and staff who are considered close contacts of the cases.  The EOHU will provide direction on testing, monitoring of symptoms and the need to self-isolate for 14 days. The EOHU will provide recommendations on classroom or school closures based on current situation.

    Is there a threshold or critical mass of cases that, once reached, would force the school to close?

    No. Each situation will be carefully assessed by the EOHU and decisions to send home certain cohorts will be made based on level of risk. The decision to close a school partially or fully would be made under the authority of the local Medical Officer of Health, in consultation with the school and school board.

    If my child is a close contact of a COVID-19 positive case in school, must the entire family self-isolate?

    Only the child who was the close contact is required to self-isolate for 14 days. A close contact is defined as someone who has had a high risk exposure to a case. The EOHU will identify who has had a high-risk exposure using information provided by the parents/students, schools, school boards and the school transportation authority. The other members of the household should limit close contact with the child, must carefully self-monitor for symptoms and must get tested if symptoms develop. In the case of a younger child needing close contact from an adult caregiver, it would be wise to limit the contact to one adult caregiver, where possible.

    If a student or the driver on a school vehicle tests positive for COVID-19, must all patrons of this school vehicle self-isolate for 14 days?

    If a student or a driver tests positive for COVID-19, the EOHU will initiate an investigation and review the bus seating charts to identify and follow up with all close contacts/high-risk exposures. Only close contacts or high-risk exposures are required to self-isolate for 14 days.

    All others on the bus will be considered low-risk exposures and may continue to attend school, while carefully self-monitoring for symptoms for 14 days. At the first sign of possible COVID-19 symptoms, they must stay home from school/work and go for testing. The driver will be wearing a medical mask and face shield to protect all the students; therefore, the risk of transmission will likely be low if they have a COVID-19 infection.

    My child received a negative COVID-19 test result. When can they return to school?

    Please see Return to School Protocols during COVID-19.

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