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For K-12 school and child-care communities

Last Updated: January 25, 2022

Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) is working hard to support the health and well-being of children in our region, by following provincial direction that will help keep them safe and healthy during the 2021-22 school year.

Schools play an essential role in learning and development for many children. Research by the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) during the 2020-21 school year noted a significant impact on students from restrictive measures and remote learning, including interrupted learning, increased child stress, decreased connection, increased loneliness and mental and emotional health effects.

Our experience in B.C. last year, which aligned with evidence gathered nationally and internationally, saw schools as lower-risk sites for COVID-19 transmission when prevention measures were in place. With the B.C. population highly immunized, there is significant community protection against serious outcomes from COVID-19, including those caused by the Omicron variant. While the Omicron variant spreads more easily, emerging evidence shows it presents the greatest risk to unvaccinated adults, with risk increasing with age. Children continue to be at low risk for serious outcomes from COVID-19, including variants of concern detected in B.C.

VCH Public Health continues to support schools to offer in-person education while maintaining appropriate measures to limit COVID-19 exposures and transmission in these settings, including advising staff and students to stay home if sick. Other health and safety measures include completing Daily Health Checks, using all available space, practicing excellent hand washing, using good cough and sneeze etiquette and utilizing appropriate cleaning and disinfection.  

Daily Health Check

Everyone going into school must complete a Daily Health Check, including staff, visitors, and students. This means checking yourself or your child for new symptoms of illness, including symptoms of COVID-19, which includes things like:

  • Fever or chills 
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Runny nose
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Sneezing
  • Body aches
  • Loss of sense of smell or taste
  • Loss of appetite
  • Extreme fatigue or tiredness
  • Nausea or vomiting 

If you are sick or unwell, stay at home. This is important to stop the spread of illness, including COVID-19, in schools. You can attend school if: 

  • Your symptoms are consistent with a previously diagnosed health condition (e.g., seasonal allergies), or
  • You have existing symptoms that have improved to where you feel well enough to return to regular activities, and 
  • You are not required to self-isolate, or your self-isolation period if over (based on a positive COVID-19 test result, if taken).

Testing

Testing is not recommended or required for most adults and children who develop mild symptoms. Testing is most needed for people who are at risk for more severe disease and are currently eligible for treatment, and live or work in a high-risk setting such as health care workers. To check if you are eligible for testing, please go to B.C.'s COVID-19 Self Assessment Tool.

If you have mild symptoms of COVID-19 and are not eligible for testing, you are advised to stay at home and self-isolate until you feel well enough to resume your regular activities. You are encouraged to inform workplaces, schools or childcare facility that an absence is illness-related.  You should take measures to limit the spread of illness to people who are at higher risk by staying home and avoiding high-risk settings while you are symptomatic.

Given that COVID-19 is continuing to circulate in our community, everyone should self-monitor themselves daily for symptoms. Contact tracing is not required. Contacts in your household should continue to self-monitor for symptoms. School contacts should continue to complete their regular daily self-monitoring as per the Daily Health Check and stay home if they develop symptoms. If they do not develop symptoms, contacts may continue with their usual activities including work and school. For more information, please go to http://www.vch.ca/covid-19/about-covid-19/if-you-are-sick.

Confirmed cases of COVID-19

Those who have tested positive for COVID-19 — whether at a VCH test collection site, with a take-home rapid antigen test provided to you by VCH, or with a rapid test acquired elsewhere — please visit bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19/if-you-have-covid-19 for more information, and complete the BCCDC COVID Positive Test Result Reporting Form. Completing the BCCDC Positive Test Result Reporting Form allows public health to monitor COVID-19 in our community, including in schools.

If you test positive and are fully vaccinated or under age 18, self-isolate right away for five days from when symptoms began (10 days for unvaccinated adults aged 18 and older). Most people who get COVID-19 will experience mild symptoms that can be managed at home. Notify your household contacts that you have tested positive. 

Household or other close contacts of confirmed cases of COVID-19

Household and other close contacts should self-monitor for symptoms, and stay home if they get sick, following the guidance at http://www.vch.ca/covid-19/about-covid-19/if-you-are-sick. If they do not develop symptoms, they can continue with normal daily activities including school and work. 

Additional guidance for child-care centres

Child care facilities are essential services. They should not be closed for Public Health reasons unless directed to do so by a Medical Health Officer. Facilities experiencing illness among staff may need to close for operational reasons if they are unable to maintain staff to child ratios as required under the Child Care Licensing Regulation.

VCH Medical Health Officers are providing the following direction for symptomatic and confirmed cases of COVID-19 among daycare staff or children and their contacts.

Symptomatic staff or children:

Staff or children that are exhibiting COVID symptoms should stay home until they feel well enough to return to their regular activities. According to newly released testing guidelines many staff and children will not be eligible for COVID-19 testing. Find out if you are eligible for a test by using  B.C.'s COVID-19 Self Assessment Tool.

Confirmed Case(s) of COVID-19 in staff or children:

Vaccinated staff or children under age 18 testing positive for COVID-19 by PCR or rapid antigen test should isolate for five days. Unvaccinated adults aged 18 and older should self-isolate for 10 days.

Household or other close contacts of symptomatic staff or children or confirmed case(s) of COVID-19:

Staff or children who are contacts should self-monitor for symptoms and stay home if they get sick regardless of vaccination status. Otherwise they may continue with their usual activities including attending the facility. 


Frequently asked questions 

COVID-19 is circulating in our communities, and approximately 120,000 students and school staff members live in our region. Where there is COVID-19 in a community, we can expect cases of COVID-19 among students and staff. However, there are measures in place to prevent exposures and transmission within schools. These include COVID-19 safety plans, and daily health checks for staff and students.

No. The current school COVID-19 safety plans decrease the amount of exposure and transmission risk in schools and have been helpful in preventing exposures. The amount of time infectious students or staff members spend in school is limited by Daily Health Checks. 

 

No. Exposures occur when a case of COVID-19 was present in school during their infectious period. In the vast majority of cases, there is no transmission in the school setting. The majority of COVID-19 transmission is within households and social networks outside of school.

 

Self-isolation means staying home and avoiding situations where you could come into contact with others. It is recommended for individuals who are sick, until their symptoms resolve and they feel better. For those who have tested positive for COVID-19, follow the guidance for self isolation found at www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19/self-isolation.

 

Self-monitoring means monitoring yourself daily for symptoms of COVID-19, and is recommended for household contacts of people who have tested positive for COVID-19. If they develop symptoms, they should stay home until they feel better.

 
SOURCE: For K-12 school and child-care communities ( )
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