What happens if - or rather when - there's COVID-19 in a Toronto school? TPH lays out protocols

CKTB - NEWS - Back to school COVID-19

Toronto Public Health has released updated protocols for when there's a positive COVID-19 result in its schools, including that depending on the timeline, close contacts of that case will have to self-isolate for 14 days.

"I truly wish I could say that there won't be cases, that there won't be any cases of COVID-19 in our schools, but we know there will be," the city's chief medical officer of health Dr. Eileen de Villa said Wednesday. 

All parents with a child attending a school with a case will be notified by TPH, though the identity of who tested positive will not be shared. 

Other measures include:

-Toronto Public Health will lead the case and contact tracing.  
-Depending on the timeline of the case, all students in the same class cohort will be required to self-isolate for a period of 14 days at home.
TPH will advise students who have been asked to self-isolate when they can return to school.
-Other students in the school should be monitored for symptoms, but if they are not a close contact of the case, they do not need to self-isolate or stay home unless directed to by Toronto Public Health.

It's also TPH that declares an outbreak (two or more positive cases), not the school, the board or the government. 

An outbreak also does not trigger a school to close automatically, rather that would be a decisions made by TPH based on various factors. 

If a student or staff gets COVID-19, then all household contacts of a student of staff with COVID-19 will need to self-isolate for 14 days.

"Schools have arrangements with their respective school boards to provide reports as well, so those may be on the school website, on the school board website," she said. "I think there will be a fair, quite a bit of communication because we're trying to make sure altogether that our school communities and parents are aware of what's happening, so that they can inform themselves in a manner that they can take appropriate actions." 

Parents also receive emails from their respective schools. 

Earlier in the day, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said reports of cases in schools will also be reported at the provincial level. 

"I think it's so important that we report every single case as we did with long-term care, we'll do the same in schools," he said. "We'll keep people abreast of what's going on, I've said from day one, when I know, you'll know." 

Ford has been concerned as recent increases in new daily COVID-19 cases have been fuelled by younger adults, with various health officials warning against private parties, close contact in bars and breaking physical distancing rules at events like weddings. 

"If everyone focuses on the guidelines and protocols, then we shouldn't have a problem, because once it gets into the community, that's when it really affects the schools," he said. 

For more information on school outbreaks, click here.