Good morning Creston,
As COVID-19 measures continue, there are two new developments that are important to know about. The first one concerns new rules about potential COVID symptoms and kids staying home from school. Schools have been back in operation for two weeks now, and, understandably, there’s a lot of confusion about what to do if and when a child shows signs of being unwell. My hope with this post is to simplify this decision-making process for parents.
Here’s the latest on potential COVID symptoms and school-aged children:
1. Having a sore throat, headache or runny nose have been REMOVED from the health checklist for schools. That means your child can attend school if they have any of these symptoms, but please encourage them to wear a mask as much as possible- and to wash their hands! Nevertheless, please exercise caution and consider keeping your child home if they’re sick.
2. The main COVID signs and symptoms to be aware of are fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, loss of taste or smell, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. If only one of these signs and symptoms is present: keep your child home for 24 hrs from the onset of the sign or symptom. If they improve, they can return to school as long as they feel well.
If two or more of these signs and symptoms are present: get a health assessment for your child (call 811) and arrange a COVID test.
If your child tests COVID POSITIVE, they should stay home (self-isolate) for ten days after the first appearance of the signs and symptoms AND until they are fever-free for at least 24 hrs without any medication.
If your child tests COVID NEGATIVE, they can return to school once their symptoms have improved and they feel well enough.
If you choose not to have your child tested (which is against medical/teachers’ advice) and they are experiencing more than two symptoms, they can return to school after a self-isolation period of 10 days from the onset of the symptoms, and after they feel well enough to return.
Secondly, we are all excited about the new COVID-19 gargle and spit test. It is much less invasive than the original nasopharyngeal swab. At this time, the simple gargle test is ONLY available to children in Kindergarten to Grade 12. This non-invasive test is accurate in adults as well, but the testing supplies are so low that the focus is on school-aged children. Parents should know that people aren’t allowed to eat, drink, chew gum or brush their teeth for at least one hour before taking a gargle test.
To book a gargle test for your child, you must make an appointment with Public Health (call 250 254 2055). If you bring your sick child to the Emergency Room, we have to do the traditional nasopharyngeal swab. I hope this changes in the future, but, for now, it’s all we can do.
Results are typically available between 24 - 48hrs. To get your results, the BCCDC COVID-19 Negative Results line (1-833-707-2792) is open from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM, seven days a week. It may be easier to get through to someone on the line in the afternoon when the call volume is generally lower. Adults can also access their results through MyHealthPortal.
Despite the omission of certain symptoms from the Ministry of Education’s list, we still encourage all parents to exercise sound judgement in deciding when to request a test in Interior Health. Please remember that children typically have far milder symptoms of COVID-19. They often present with low-grade fever and a dry cough. In children, gastrointestinal symptoms are more common than in adults, while skin changes and lesions are less common. If you are concerned, phone us and get your sick child tested. By getting your child tested, you can help keep your family and friends safe.
It is worth keeping in mind that, in BC, less than 1% of children tested have been COVID-19 positive. Children do not appear to be the primary drivers of COVID-19 transmission in schools or community settings. Within households and families, adults seem to be the primary drivers of transmission. For this reason, we should not be as concerned about what happens in schools, but more concerned about the size of our family “bubbles”. You can protect your friends, family and community by getting tested when you have symptoms.
COVID tests for adults can also be booked by contacting Public Health. Phone 250 254 2055 and please LEAVE A MESSAGE. Public health nurse will return your call and try to fit you in as soon as possible. Tests are done on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. The earlier in the day you call, the higher the chances of seeing you on the same day.
The information contained in this post is based on the best evidence currently available in the medical community. As always, we will continue to update you as new information becomes available.
Dr. Nerine Kleinhans, on behalf of Creston Valley Medical staff