OHS Canada Magazine

Runny nose, headache removed from symptom list on daily Ontario school screener


By Holly McKenzie-Sutter

Ontario has trimmed down the COVID-19 symptoms that would require children to stay home from school or daycare, dropping runny noses and headaches from the list.

The province’s updated online screening tool lists five categories of symptoms “most commonly associated with COVID-19.”

Those are fever and chills, cough or barking cough, shortness of breath, losing taste or smell and nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.

Children reporting any of those symptoms are to stay home, isolate and seek COVID-19 testing.

A spokeswoman for the health minister confirmed that a runny nose, sore throat or difficulty swallowing, congested nose, headache, and extreme tiredness or muscle aches were removed from the screening tool.

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Some symptoms were also removed for people over age 18 taking the questionnaire. Removed symptoms for that age group include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, runny nose, sore throat, congestion, headache, stomach pain, pink eye and falling down often.

Spokewoman Alexandra Hilkene said health units can give further advice on isolation requirements based on things like the local COVID-19 situation and whether an individual was in contact with a confirmed case.

People can also attend school if an individual or someone in the household started experiencing mild virus symptoms like a headache, fatigue, muscle aches or joint pain within 48 hours of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

The province’s top doctor indicated earlier this month that the screening list for schools and daycares was to be narrowed after hearing from parents about disruption created by associated testing, and finding fewer cases in those with mild symptoms.

“We did a lot of testing for very mild symptoms like runny nose and we found that we didn’t get a lot of positives at our population level,” Dr. Kieran Moore told an Aug. 3 news conference.

“The symptom list is smaller, so the requirement for testing should be fewer, and hopefully a percentage of tests that are positive would be higher, so less impact on families, less need to go get tested.”

Screening guidelines for Ontario schools have been revised several times during the pandemic.

Virus testing sites reported long lines when schools opened last fall with strict screening requirements as the province saw a rise in cases.

The latest change in screening guidelines comes days before the start of the new school year.

Ontario reported 694 new COVID-19 cases and no new deaths from the virus on Monday. The province said 527 of the infected people are not fully vaccinated or have an unknown vaccination status.

There were 160 patients in intensive care with COVID-related critical illness, including 93 patients on ventilators.