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Coronavirus: Ontario government revises school, child care centre screening guidelines

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WATCH ABOVE: The province has changed the COVID-19 symptoms screening guidelines for schools and childcare centres. As Erica Vella reports, it’s relief to some parents who have had to keep kids home school or daycare.

TORONTO — Parents of students with the sniffles or a headache will no longer have to line up for hours to get their children tested at COVID-19 assessment centres under Ontario’s newly amended screening guidelines for schools and daycares.

Dr. Barbara Yaffe, the province’s associate chief medical officer of health, said students with either of those symptoms can return to school after 24 hours if they otherwise feel fine. She said those are only symptoms in about 17 per cent of COVID-19 cases among children, so the change seemed prudent.

“There’s all sorts of other causes of a runny nose, there’s other viruses circulating in the community,” she said. “The kid might have just been outside and got a runny nose.”

Read more: Toronto District School Board’s COVID-19 screening app back in service

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Previously, the government had asked children with either symptom to stay home until they received a negative test result or other medical diagnosis, or were symptom-free for 24 hours. Now kids can return to class even with one of those symptoms after a day.

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Ontario is also removing abdominal pain or conjunctivitis from its screening list.

Children with a fever or cough will still be required to stay home, consult with a doctor and receive an alternative diagnosis or a negative COVID-19 test.

Ontario’s change comes after British Columbia dropped 10 symptoms, including a runny nose, from their screening guidance last month.

NDP education critic Marit Stiles slammed the Ontario government for its changing guidelines, saying the shifts are giving parents “whiplash.”

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“Parents who spent hours and hours in line this week with their little ones waiting for a test ? have a right to be frustrated at the horrible lack of clarity on when kids need a test, and when they should return to school or daycare,” she said.