Is my child OK to go to school in Manitoba? Your COVID-19 back-to-school questions answered

By | September 12, 2020

Along with school supplies and daily lunch items, parents have another list to go over before sending their kids to school this fall, as they check for symptoms of COVID-19

Families who have not opted for home-school and don’t qualify for remote learning must now make daily decisions about whether children are well enough to attend class during the pandemic.

To reduce the spread of the coronavirus, public health officials in Manitoba have told parents they must keep their kids home if they feel even mildly ill. 

Many parents responding to an online CBC News back-to-school survey expressed confusion over what symptoms to watch out for, and under what circumstances they should keep their children home.

CBC dug into the mountain of material published by the provincial government and school divisions to find answers to some of these questions.

Take our survey if you have any other questions you want answered.

When do I need to keep my child home from school?

Any children who are sick must stay home, even if their symptoms are mild or if their parent suspects the illness isn’t related to COVID-19. 

If a child has no symptoms, but has had close contact with a confirmed case, they should stay home and self-isolate for up to 14 days, public health officials say in the provincial government’s K-12 COVID-19 response document

Some symptoms linked to known medical issues, like asthma or allergies, don’t necessarily require students to stay home. These symptoms could include chronic and stable coughing, sneezing, runny nose, or nasal congestion. But if any of these symptoms get worse, students must self-isolate.

Anyone who has travelled outside of Canada or within Canada east of Terrance Bay, Ont., must isolate for 14 days. The same rule applies if anyone in the same household, who isn’t exempt from self-isolation requirements, has travelled within the last 14 days and has had close contact with the student.

What are the symptoms I should watch for?

COVID-19 has a wide range of symptoms. The Manitoba government lists a number of them on its website.  The province has also provided a screening checklist, with instructions on what to if someone experiences symptoms. 

Some symptoms are strong enough indicators of COVID-19 that the presence of even one would require someone to stay home. These include fever or chills with a temperature above 38 C, a cough, a sore throat, breathing difficulties, loss of taste or smell, and vomiting or diarrhea that lasts longer than 24 hours.

Other symptoms aren’t so serious that, on their own, they require someone to stay home. These symptoms include runny nose, muscle aches, headache, fatigue, pink eye, skin rash, and nausea. A student who has two or more of those symptoms should stay home.

When does a student need to get a test?

Provincial public health officials have told Manitobans that only people experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should get tested, unless a health-care professional advises it.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin, in a letter to parents, recommends calling Health Links for advice on when to get tested, although people experiencing symptoms don’t need a referral from Health Links or a doctor to get tested.

Shared Health has an online screening tool, which school divisions have advised parents to use to help determine if their child should get a test.

When can they go back to school?

Parents are ultimately responsible for deciding whether their children are well enough to attend class, based on the advice of public health and school officials.

If a student has symptoms but tests negative for COVID-19, it still doesn’t mean they can return to class. They must stay home until 24 hours after their symptoms have gone away.

If the student doesn’t get tested, they have to wait 10 days after the onset of symptoms before returning to class.   

Anyone diagnosed with COVID-19 must also isolate themselves for 10 days after the start of symptoms. If a child tests positive, public health officials will advise them when it is safe to return to school.

What happens if a parent or child refuses to get tested?

There is no requirement for people experiencing symptoms to get tested, but anyone experiencing symptoms must stay home for at least 10 days after the onset of symptoms. 

What if a parent feels sick?

The provincial government has told school divisions that as long as the student has no symptoms, and has not been in contact with a positive case of COVID-19, they can attend school.

What happens if a test comes back positive?

If a student tests positive for COVID-19 and was at school during the infectious period (two days before the onset of symptoms until, in most cases, 10 days after symptoms develop, the province says), public health officials will conduct contact tracing to find anyone who might have been exposed.

The classroom or school may be closed, and the class or cohort may be required to self-isolate for up to 14 days from the last contact with the infected person, if there are a large number of confirmed cases or close contacts linked to the class.

If there are no close contacts and measures like wearing a mask and physical distancing have been followed, it may not be necessary to close the class or school.

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