York Region Public Health will require students with runny noses or sore throats to stay home for fear of COVID-19, despite the fact the province has dropped those symptoms from its screening list.
The public health unit is introducing the measure as many students prepare to return to school next week, going above and beyond the symptoms included in the provincial screening tool. York’s enhanced screening will also filter out unvaccinated siblings, requiring an unvaccinated student to stay home if an unvaccinated sibling is identified as a close contact of a COVID-19 case.
York Region director of communications Patrick Casey said the region is committed to a safe return to school.
“These changes are being made out of an abundance of caution given previous school, child care and other exposures where cases had these minor, yet common, symptoms,” Casey said.
The additional symptoms differ from the province’s upgraded screening tool, released Aug. 26. The province’s tool mentions fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, decreased or loss of smell, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
The sibling screening measures will have a greater impact on unvaccinated households. If an unvaccinated student is dismissed or isolating due to potential COVID-19 exposure, York will require their unvaccinated siblings to stay home for the same amount of time. However, a vaccinated sibling could stay in school if they do not exhibit symptoms.
The province’s screening tool only requires a student to stay home if someone they live with develops COVID-19 symptoms, not if they are a close contact.
“We understand this will have impacts on the frequency of children being tested, but given the delta variant’s relentless targeting of the unvaccinated and many who are vulnerable, including children not yet eligible to receive a vaccine, we need to be united in our fight against COVID-19,” Casey said of the measures.
York Region also recommends junior and senior kindergarteners wear masks while attending school in person, but neither it nor the province is mandating that.
“The Ministry of Education, York Region Public Health, and our school partners are committed to supporting the health, safety and well-being of students, staff and their families,” Casey said.
More information about back-to-school safety is available at york.ca/safeatschool.