What to do if there's a coronavirus case in your child's classroom

Aug 27 2020, 4:18 pm

The 2020 back-to-school season is giving parents and students even more pre-September jitters than usual as many prepare to head back to the classroom in the middle of a global pandemic.

It’s a first for many, and there are many questions — including what to do if a student comes into contact with someone at school who tested positive for coronavirus. Alberta’s top doctor laid out some useful strategies at her latest media briefing on Thursday.

If another student in the child’s class tests positive for coronavirus, everyone in contact with that student should stay home for 14 days, Dr. Deena Hinshaw said. But how families spend that time at home waiting for their child to finish the incubation period will likely vary depending on the child’s age.

For example, teenagers in high school can probably self-isolate away from family members and take care of their own daily tasks such as eating and bathing.

If that is the case, others in the teen’s household don’t need to self-isolate. They can continue going out, Hinshaw said.

She likened the process to a relay race, in which the virus is the baton.

“If the first runner [the COVID case] doesn’t give the baton to second runner [the close contact] that second runner can’t pass the baton to the third,” she said, explaining why family members who distance from a self-isolating student don’t have to isolate as well.

But that changes if it’s a young child who may have been exposed to coronavirus at school. Younger kids likely need assistance and close contact from parents or caregivers, and won’t be able to spend 14 days distanced from relatives.

For young children, Hinshaw advised families to pick one person to care for the child, and everyone else should distance from those two for 14 days from last exposure.

“One parent or guardian should be assigned to care for child, and others in the household should stay distanced if at all possible,” Hinshaw said.

Changes to Canada’s Employment Insurance coming in this fall include provisions for workers who need to stay home to care for a child who is sick with coronavirus or self-isolating because of it. That should enable the family member who’s caring for the child to collect some income during those two weeks.

Hinshaw didn’t address what families should do if going on EI wouldn’t generate enough income to meet their expenses, or what to do if there’s not enough space in a household for a student to physically distance from their family.

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