‘Word will circulate’ on COVID-19 cases and absences as schools reopen, Etches says

Ottawa medical health officer says word of mouth will notify students, parents and guardians and teachers of increasing COVID-19 absenteeism in schools before absenteeism hits the threshold for principal to notify public health officials .

Ontario government says parents is only notified of a potential COVID-19 outbreak at a school when approximately 30 percent of staff and students are absent from the school. At that time, a joint letter from the local health officer and the principal is sent to the school community.

The Ford government said late Wednesday afternoon that parents will have access to daily school absenteeism data from Jan. 24.

dr. Vera Etches says that with the Omicron level “high in our community now,” parents and students will know when there is an increase in school absences.

“I’m sure that word will get around if people stay home when they’re sick, before we hit the 30 percent threshold,” Etches said Wednesday.

“People are being asked to notify their closest contacts when they test positive.”

Teachers in Ottawa are concerned about the new guideline for reporting cases to Ottawa Public Health.

Erica Potter, Ottawa Carleton: “We’re actually going into the Wild West with no reporting and the 30 percent absenteeism rate is pretty high and only then will it become a consideration to investigate why some of these people are absent.” Teacher of the District School Board.

The Ottawa Catholic School Board says it is waiting for more details about reporting from the province.

“I really don’t know if 30 percent is going to be a good indicator and because we haven’t received the tool yet, we don’t know what measure the government is going to use for that, so we’re going to need a few.” days to work that out,” said Tom D’Amico, director of education at the Ottawa Catholic School Board.

D’Amico says the board would investigate whether about 10 percent of the school was absent during flu season.

“If 10 percent were absent, we’d do extra cleaning, we’d check if it’s the flu that’s spreading and what we can do,” D’Amico said.

“Over the past two years, we haven’t had those benchmarks because nothing was normal.”

Etches says managing the situation doesn’t change whether someone at school tested positive or not.

“If someone in a class tests positive, the advice to everyone else in that class is to monitor the symptoms for 10 days,” Etches said. “If someone in a classroom is sick and goes home, the action that people in the class should still take, every day before they go to school, is to check for symptoms.”

The students of the four school boards of Ottawa will return to class on Monday for the first time after the holidays. Students with the Ottawa Carleton District School Board and Ottawa Catholic School Board have engaged in online learning since Jan. 5, while students with the two French boards returned to class online Monday.

“I appreciate the mixed response to the county’s announcement that personal learning will resume on Monday, January 17. Personal learning is welcome news for many parents and carers, but I can understand others’ concerns. Parents have many questions.” , says Etches.

“Each family can and should make individual assessments of what works best for them when it comes to returning their children for personal learning.”

Etches says it’s critical for everyone in the community to do their part to reduce the risk of COVID-19 in schools and childcare facilities, including vaccinations and staying home when sick.

The medical officer of health adds that there are layers of protection in schools to slow the transmission compared to other institutions.

“These tiers include daily screening, wearing a well-fitting mask, hand washing, distancing, cohort and increased ventilation. Using the online screening tool every day before entering a school or daycare is one of the most important ways to prevent COVID to keep -19 out of schools and childcare settings,” Etches said.

The Ontario government announced on Wednesday that every student and staff member will receive two COVID-19 rapid tests when personal learning resumes Monday. Symptomatic students and staff will be told to take two COVID-19 rapid tests, 24 to 48 hours apart.

“I’m not sure that will get most people until Wednesday of next week,” said Melodie Gondek, OSSTF-Ottawa Carleton District President. Gondek says the union is waiting for more information from the school board and the county.

Etches says Ottawa Public Health will follow provincial guidelines to make home PCR test kits available in schools for symptomatic elementary and secondary students and staff who become symptomatic on the job.

“We will look for patterns and monitor what is happening in the school-age population being tested with PCR testing. We will watch and monitor,” Etches said, adding that OPH will update the community on the situation.

The medical officer of health has some advice for parents ahead of the return to school on Monday.

“Before I go to school, I would like all families to use the provincial screening tool online. It asks children if they have any risk factors for being positive COVID and any symptoms that could be COVID.”

The Ottawa Catholic School Board says it has received 201,000 N95 masks for all staff and 120,000 three-layer masks will be available to students.

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