Ontario to notify parents of COVID-19 in schools if absences reach 30%

Jan 12 2022, 7:34 pm

As Ontario students prepare to head back to classrooms, parents are learning they will be kept in the dark about COVID-19 cases in schools.

Parents will only be notified of COVID-19 circulating in schools when absences in the school reach 30%. The province is using absenteeism data to determine COVID-19 outbreaks in light of testing qualifications in the province changing.

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health told reporters that the 30% threshold is based on previous experience with respiratory illnesses in schools.

“We have plenty of experience using absenteeism data for normal viral respiratory seasons, and this is based on our experience aggregated over the years of influence reporting absenteeism associated with other viruses,” Dr. Kieran Moore told reporters on Wednesday.

Dr. Moore added that parents would also have access to rapid tests for students to use when they are symptomatic. To begin, the province will be handing out two rapid tests per student. Tests are to be used when symptomatic to determine if the student(s) have COVID-19. More rapid tests will be handed out as the province acquires them.

“A threshold of a rise of 30% most likely would represent increased activity in the community and would be a point at which we would want to acknowledge that to review what’s going on in the community and communicate that back to all parents,” said Dr. Moore.

Still, parents not being notified of possible COVID-19 outbreaks until absentee rates are at 30% is leaving some concerned. A 30% absentee rate doesn’t necessarily mean schools will close; it is just the point at which parents will be notified.

The absenteeism rate applies to entire school populations, and absences for any reason will count towards the threshold.

Other measures being taken as schools return will be deploying millions of rapid tests, two per student to start and increasing as Ontario gets more. The province will also be deploying more than 10 million N95 masks for education staff and four million three-layer masks for students. They will also be investing in an additional 3,000 HEPA filters to be used in schools.

 

Brooke TaylorBrooke Taylor

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