Education ministry reviewing symptom list for students to help relieve pressure on testing sites
KITCHENER -- As more people flood to COVID-19 testing sites in Waterloo Region and around Ontario, the provincial government is reviewing its symptom list for students.
Earlier this month, the province launched an online screening tool that asks a series of questions to help determine if someone has COVID-19 or has been exposed to someone with the disease. The tool then gives an advisory on whether or not it is safe to go to school, or whether the student should stay home and get a COVID-19 test.
Assessment centres in Waterloo Region reached capacity before they even opened on Wednesday morning. The Kitchener drive-thru site shut down due to staff reportedly faced verbal abuse and threats of violence.
The site will be open again on Thursday, but people will need to make an appointment before coming for a test.
Some parents were at the Waterloo testing centre on Bathurst Drive, waiting for a test for a child with what would normally be considered a minor symptom. In most cases, a child is asked to stay home if they're slightly sick and they can't return unless they've received a negative COVID-19 test or 14 days have passed.
British Columbia has already shortened its list of symptoms and Ontario could follow suit.
"If having a runny nose or sore throat requires you to be tested, then testing should be accessible," parent Elana Zur said.
She said she's been trying to get her children tested for the past two days after they were told to stay home.
"Now because of one kid having a runny nose in daycare, which is like all the time, they can't come back for two weeks without a test," Zur said.
In B.C., children are asked to stay home if they have a fever, chills, cough or shortness of breath. But, they can go to school if they have a sore throat, headache, feel fatigued or have a runny nose.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce said he's considering similar guidelines.
"I'm seriously looking at that," he said. "I want to consult with the paediatric team in the province and COVID command table."
Lecce added they're taking an extra-cautious approach, but adjusting the symptom list isn't out of the question.
"We'll keep refining our practices based on the evidence," he said.
Health officials said it's a balancing act to make sure kids can go to school as much as possible while minimizing the risk of spreading the virus.
The new policy in B.C. has had some challenges, including different symptom lists for students and staff. The teachers' union there also raised concerns that the new rules have resulted in confusion and concern from parents and students.