Recommendations for Schools During a COVID-19 Outbreak
The Public Health Unit (PHU) will declare an outbreak when there are two or more lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in students and/or staff (or other visitors) 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/after school care).
Here are some actions schools can take to help reduce the impact of the outbreak:
Communicate Outbreak to School Community
- Communicate the outbreak to the school community using the notice from Public Health.
- Post outbreak signage at entrances and affected area.
- Inform outside agencies that use the school/daycare of the outbreak.
- Review the daily symptom screening process for all staff/essential visitors and students and enhance if needed. Promote the use of the COVID-19 School and Child Care Screening Tool.
Reinforce Limited Movement Within School
- Restrict visitors to the school.
- Further minimize the movement of staff between cohorts.
- Limit student activities to their required cohorts.
- Discontinue extra-curricular activities, as much as possible.
- Restrict all staff from working in other schools, where possible (including school, transportation, staff from home care agencies or others that provide medical services to those in school).
- Consider additional measures for immunized and previously positive high-risk contacts who are not dismissed, such as restricting mixing between cohorts.
Review and Reinforce Public Health Measures
- Review the Public Health Ontario Checklist with Public Health staff.
- Reinforce daily screening for all staff/essential visitors and students; enhance procedures if needed
(e.g., on site confirmation).
- Review and reinforce with students: hand hygiene, maintaining physical distancing and masking for source control based on requirements for their age.
- Review and reinforce PPE use in school.
- Encourage students (who can supply their own masks) to bring multiple per day.
- Recommend to staff, students, and their families/household contacts to strictly avoid close contact/interactions with other households for non-essential reasons (e.g., no visiting, no playdates, no carpooling).
- Review environmental cleaning and disinfection, as well as enhanced cleaning and disinfection for the outbreak area(s). Resource: Public Health Ontario’s Environmental Cleaning Fact Sheet
- Work with Public Health to increase availability and accessibility of COVID-19 vaccination for the broader school community impacted by the outbreak.
- Work with Public Health to increase availability and accessibility of testing for the broader school community impacted by the outbreak for additional case finding, if deemed necessary.
When the Outbreak is Declared Over
The PHU will declare an outbreak has ended when at least 14 days have passed with no evidence of ongoing transmission that could reasonably be related to exposures in the school; AND no further symptomatic individuals have been reported by the school who are associated with the initial exposed cohorts.
Communicate to the School Community When the Outbreak has Ended
- Use the notice provided by the PHU to communicate the end of the outbreak at the school.
Note: Cohorts deemed by the PHU to not be affected or not at high-risk of exposure, and who are not required to self-isolate, may return to school prior to the end of the outbreak if epidemiological investigation of the outbreak supports their return, and if follow up measures in the school are implemented, as recommended by the Public Health Unit.