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COVID-19 school screening guidelines updated in Kingston, Belleville to limit absences

Click to play video: 'COVID-19 school screening guidelines updated in Kingston, Belleville to limit absences' COVID-19 school screening guidelines updated in Kingston, Belleville to limit absences
Line-ups wrapped around the Leon’s Centre once again on Monday, as hundreds wait to undergo testing for COVID-19. In many cases, it's parents waiting with their school-age children to receive the nasal swab. Some may only have a runny nose but a negative test is the only way they can return to school sooner, rather than later. – Sep 21, 2020

Lineups across eastern Ontario for COVID-19 testing have been spanning blocks since students have gone back to school, including in the Belleville and Kingston regions.

Some have attributed these long lineups to school screening guidelines implemented by the province. Screening is meant to be done by parents or students every day before school, and the province suggests that symptoms, including a runny nose, could likely warrant a school absence and a COVID-19 test.

The Limestone District School Board and the Algonquin and Lakeshore District Catholic School Board say they have been experiencing a high amount of absences since school began due to the screening protocols, although both say these absences were expected. Hastings Prince Edward District School Board has yet to respond to a request for comment, but will be updating their screening protocols along with HPEPH.

Read more: Back-to-school, flu season leading to long lineups at Kingston COVID-19 testing centres

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To ease school absences, and perhaps long lineups at local assessment centres, Hastings Prince Edward Public Health (HPEPH) and Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) Public Health, along with the three local school boards have updated COVID-19 screening protocols at local schools.

The updated screening procedures are based on the province’s new online school screening tool, sent out Sept. 14, according to a joint press release from KFL&A Public Health and HPEPH.

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Higher demand for testing leads to longer lines in Ontario' Coronavirus: Higher demand for testing leads to longer lines in Ontario
Coronavirus: Higher demand for testing leads to longer lines in Ontario – Sep 21, 2020

The updated guidelines will now allow members of the same household of a symptomatic person who are asymptomatic to go to school while monitoring for symptoms, only if the symptomatic person is seeking or waiting for test results.

The guidelines will also allow students or staff who have already received a negative test result to return to school 24 hours after their symptoms start to ameliorate.

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Any student or staff member who chooses not to be tested, or who have housemates or siblings that do not get tested, must self-isolate for 14 days, except if they are diagnosed with another illness, if they do not have a fever and if it has been at least 24 hours since symptoms first started, or 48 hours if the symptoms include vomiting or diarrhea.

Dr. Piotr Oglaza, the medical officer of health at HPEPH says they updates to the screening protocols were keeping in mind the local low infection rates.

Read more: Toronto hospital turns away coronavirus test-seekers due to overwhelming demand

As of Monday, Kingston has six active cases of COVID-19 in the region, whereas the Belleville region has no active case of the virus.

“As testing centres are already very busy, there is no need for asymptomatic individuals to be tested at this time unless they are a close contact of a confirmed case or are otherwise advised they should be tested (such as when visiting long term care),” Oglaza said in an emailed statement Monday.

Nevertheless, both public health units are still strongly recommending that anyone showing symptoms of COVID-19 who do not already have another diagnosis to get tested.

“It’s important to note that the diagnosis of another infection does not exclude the possibility of also being infected with COVID-19,” the joint statement read.

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