Ontario releases coronavirus outbreak case-management plan for schools

Aug 26 2020, 10:47 am

The Ontario government has released a COVID-19 outbreak case-management plan for schools as they reopen in September.

On Wednesday, Premier Doug Ford said “we have a robust plan for schools. So, when a case or outbreak occurs, we know what to do.”

Ontario released two coronavirus case-management plans, one for public health units and one for school boards.

Ford said the province will also provide guidance documents to parents. “You deserve to see the same information I see and know the same information I know. When schools reopen, we’ll be prepared.”

The plan was made in close consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams.

In the management plan, it states that the local public health unit is responsible for determining if an outbreak exists, declaring an outbreak, and providing direction on outbreak-control measures to be implemented.

An outbreak occurs when two or more people contract the virus based on positive lab results.

However, even though an outbreak may be declared in the school, the public health unit will assist in determining which cohort may be sent home or if a partial or full school closure is required based on the scope of the outbreak.

The plan says that an outbreak will be declared over by the public health units, which is based on at least 14 days from the last outbreak-associated case (including in a student,
staff, essential visitor, or anyone else in the school during the outbreak) and no further symptomatic individuals with pending tests.

While schools are not required to report to the medical officers of health, if a child has symptoms, they are required to report it if they are of the opinion a pupil has or may have a communicable disease.

In order to communicate with parents effectively, the plan adds that all school boards will be asked to create a COVID-19 advisory section on their website.

This is so school boards and schools can post information if there is a confirmed case that involves a student or a staff member.

“Students or staff members may withdraw from school if a family or household member
has a confirmed case of COVID-19 but information will not be posted in these instances,” the plan says.

Earlier on Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that provinces and territories will be receiving $2 billion to help safely restart schools.

Ontario will be receiving a total of $763.34 million with a first funding installment of $381 million.

“Ontario’s investments lead the nation in supporting priorities like more cleaning, physical distancing, testing, and hiring of staff to ensure a safe reopening of our schools this September,” Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, said in a statement.

“Today’s investment by the Federal government complements the already landmark investments made by our government in support of safe and healthy schools in Ontario.”

For all provinces and territories, the first funding round will be in Fall 2020, with additional funding to be available in early 2021.

According to the province, $200 million will go towards “reopening plan implementation,” which, when broken down, shows $100 million to help with enhanced cleaning like hiring more custodians and HVAC.

And $30 million to support additional PPE for schools, as well as $70 million for the temporary hiring of educators as required.

There will also be a total of $70 million for student transportation with $44.5 million going towards the Driver Retention Program (DRP) and $25.5 million for route protection and to help reduce the number of students on buses.

The province also says there will be a total of $12.5 million for Special Education and Mental Health Supports Enhancement.

In addition, there will be supports of up to 125 additional nursing positions in public health units, and remote learning will receive $36 million.

The province is also setting aside $50 million for any future pandemic learning needs to ensure that Ontario is prepared for every scenario this fall.

Pending federal approvals in December, the Ministry of Education will announce the second half of the payment later this year for the remainder of the school year.

The Ontario English Catholic Teacher Association (OECTA) released a statement thanking the federal government for the extra funding but said the Ford government has “failed to listen to medical experts about what is needed to keep schools safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19, including the same standards for physical distancing, hand sanitation, and ventilation as are expected in the rest of the province.”

Clarrie FeinsteinClarrie Feinstein

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