Reopening: STEP 3
Effective July 16, 2021
The past few months have been difficult. The COVID-19 pandemic has upended our lives, from how we see and care for our loved ones, to how we send our kids out the door for school.
This section contains information on how you and your family can navigate this new normal, including advice, steps to take when your child is sick, best practice guidance, and guidelines to help support successful transition to living with COVID-19 in our lives.
Included below is information for supporting your family and those you care for in various settings:
Lambton Public Health is here to support you, your family, caregivers, and all settings involved with the care, growth, and development of your loved ones. We are in this together and it is only by acting together can we get through it.
If you or a family member has symptoms that you are concerned about, please use Ontario’s COVID-19 Self Assessment Tool.
Families at Home
Expectant parents or parents with infants:
Have questions about prenatal care? Looking for information about breastfeeding? Experiencing the “baby blues”? Questions about growth and development or parenting?
- Call our Family Health Line at 519-383-3817 and visit our webpage about your child’s health.
- Information about Pregnancy and COVID-19
Additional information on parenting
- COVID-19 – Pregnancy, Childbirth and caring for newborns – Public Health Canada
- Shared Parenting tips – Lambton Public Health
- Mental Health Supports for kids – St Clair Child & Youth Services
Caring for someone else in your home/in their home
Whether you are caring for a family member, friend, or neighbour, follow the recommendations below to prevent the spread of COVID-19:
- Consider your health before helping others, especially if you are at higher-risk for COVID-19.
- Protect yourself using good public health safety measures
- Remember: If you have any symptoms of illness, or have been in close contact with someone who has symptoms, get tested for COVID-19 at an assessment centre, self-isolate and if further care is needed, contact your health care provider or Lambton Public Health.
Caring for someone outside your household?
Consider the following tips to reduce the risk and transmission of COVID-19:
- For non-essential interactions: contact others in a safe way – phone, e-mail, notes, etc.
- If someone has asked you to help them, do not enter their home unless necessary.
- If face-to-face contact is required, remember to practice physical distancing. Wear a mask when physical distancing is not possible
- Limit non-essential visits in and outside of the home. Use food and medication delivery services where possible, connect the person to social programs either over the phone (eg. Tel-check or Lambton County Connects), or set up online chats by downloading apps on their electronic devices or connecting them with social media sites that connect them to programming or loved ones.
The Ontario Caregiver Association offers free resources, a helpline and live chat for those caring for loved ones. They also have a collection of COVID-19 specific tips and resources for caregivers during this challenging time.
As we transition towards recovery, more families are back to work. We may be looking for different child care options. And as more and more child care options open and become available, we want to know that the child care centres are going to be safe.
Child Care Centres
Lambton County child care providers have been working with Lambton Public Health to put policies and procedures into place to open their doors offering a safer environment.
For more information, read the Guidance for child care centres to see what they are doing to reduce the risk of COVID-19 in children.
Learn more from our Frequently Asked Questions section including details about what to do when your child is sick, when your child can return, and what happens when a child tests positive with COVID-19.
Day camps are often a great experience for children for continued growth, learning, and development. As we learn to live with COVID-19 and further transition through recovery, day camps are making changes to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 in campers and staff. You can read the Day camp guidance to find out more.
Access more information on the guidance and tools for child care and day camp providers.
Parents face a difficult choice in weighing the anxieties of returning to school against the emotional strain and social isolation of on-line learning at home. Those decisions should be guided by the advice of public health officials, the prevalence of the virus in the community, the family’s risk factors and the child’s individual needs. There’s no perfect answer for everybody; it is going to be uncomfortable and we need to be able to adjust and accept the big emotions and feelings along the way. Medical professionals can offer advice to help figure out what’s best for your family.
One of the most important things parents/guardians can do to help slow the spread of COVID-19 is keeping their children home when they have symptoms of illness.
This sections contains information on the following:
- Reopening of Schools
- Preparing your child for in-school learning
- Preparing your child for at-home learning
For more information, read the Guidance for Schools to see what they are doing to reduce the risk of COVID-19.
Reopening of Schools
The school boards in Lambton County have released the following plans:
- Reopening our Schools – Lambton Kent District School Board
- Return to School Plan – St. Clair Catholic District School Board
- Back to School – Conseil scolaire Viamonde
- Back to School – CSC Providence
The Medical Officers of Health for Lambton County and Chatham Kent have released the following letter to parents concerning sending your child back to school:
- COVID-19 A Letter to Parents of School-Aged Children – English / French
- Watch Dr Sudit Ranade’s message to parents of School-Aged Children – YouTube
Preparing your children for In-School Learning
Before we get back to learning, we’ll need to relearn “back to school”. Help your young person know what to expect, schedule in extra time for setbacks, and model patience – it’s everyone’s first day at school this year.
Things to Consider: Relearning Back to school
- Screen for COVID-19 every day before going to school (use this tool if you are unsure)
- Practice good public health safety measures
- Practice good toilet training behaviours
- Label all items going into school
- Normalize the expression of feelings, and foster coping strategies for big emotions
- Ensure your child’s immunizations are up to date
Remember: It’s ok to feel overwhelmed as a parent, reach out to trusted supports when you’re in need.
For more information, read the Guidance for Schools to see what they are doing to reduce the risk of COVID-19.
Preparing your children for At-Home or Remote Learning
As a parent it is always your right to decide what is best for your child. If for whatever reason you feel the safest place for your child to learn is at home, it is within your rights to engage them with at-home or remote learning.
The school boards have made remote, online learning available so be sure to review that information found in the boards’ respective back to school plans.
While learning at home, your child will still need structure and a routine for their day that includes healthy meals, time for physical activity and time to socialize.
If you choose to school your child at home here are some additional resources for you to review:
- Learn at home – Ministry of Education – activities, courses, and more
- Learning outcomes – Ministry of Education
- Activities to do with Kids – Lambton Public Health
- Physical Activity for Kids (Virtual – at home) – YMCA
- Check out Lambton County Libraries
Learn more from our Frequently Asked Questions section including details about what to do if your child is sick, what is a school outbreak, school closure or reopening process, positive cases at a school or in a classroom, mental health, bus safety, physical distancing, and wearing a face covering.
In the Community
There are lots of things that you can do alone or with others while reducing your risk of COVID-19. Everyone’s risk level is different. Check out our Going Out Safely infographic/poster to decide what is best for your family. Learn about ways to protect yourself and your family while returning to a new normal.
Whenever you are out, remember to:
- Keep a distance of 2 metres (6 feet) from others.
- Wear a mask when you cannot maintain a physical distance of at least 2 metres or are required to do so.
- Wash your hands thoroughly.
- Cough/sneeze into your sleeve or use a tissue. Dispose of tissue immediately and wash your hands.
- Stay home if you are sick.
Frequently Asked Questions
Don’t panic. Your child may be sick for any number of reasons. If your child is sick, at home or at child care, please refer to our guidance document for next steps: “Your child is sick. Now what?” If you choose to have a test, you can find more on our Testing and Assessment centres page.
More information on what to expect when you get your COVID-19 test (for children)
All close contacts of the positive case, including members of the cohort (staff and children) will be contacted and given instructions on self-isolation. If contacted, you must self-isolate and not return to day care for 14 days from the last exposure. The whole centre does not need to close unless the outbreak spreads to another room/cohort.
If a student or staff person has tested positive for COVID-19, it is currently required that the associated school report the positive case; even if no one else needs to be isolated.
There are many factors that go into assessing the need for close contacts to isolate. With a case at a school, attendance is a large factor. If the positive case wasn’t at school during their infectious period, there would be no need to isolate cohorts of students. There are different reasons that the positive case may not have been at school.
· They were infectious over a period of non-school time, i.e. a weekend
· They are currently placed in co-operative education and do not attend the school in person
· They have a “spare” period, which currently would happen a week at a time
· They are a staff person who was away or not in contact with any students
This is not an exhaustive list; however, you can see there could be many reasons why there is no need for isolation of cohort members.
The best way to assist your child with physical distancing is to teach them how and why at home. Explain to your children why it is important. When you are out in public, point out markers, signs, etc., that explain physical distancing. Schools will have physical distance policies in place and will do their best to make sure they are followed. If your child understands it, they are much more likely to practice physical distancing properly.
The best thing you can do for your child is give them opportunities at home before school starts to practice wearing a mask. Try giving them an enjoyable activity to do while wearing the mask. If your child has a medical reason they cannot wear a mask, i.e. breathing problems, anxiety, etc. talk to your school principal about how to navigate this.
The Ontario government and Lambton Public Health are constantly monitoring the local situation. If Lambton County or Ontario get to a place where we need to move back to close schools, there will be things in place to support students and parents. School boards are also required to have a full Learn at Home plan prepared in case of emergency.
Every new environment increases risk for exposure, however; school boards and bus companies are working to lower the risks where they can. The best thing you can do to assist your child with reducing their own risk on the bus is prepare them for the experience.
• Teach them the importance of physical distancing.
• Explain why it is important for them to sit in their assigned seat for the whole ride.
• Help them practice wearing a face covering/mask so they feel comfortable wearing it while on the bus.
For more information about Chatham-Kent Lambton Administrative School Services “CLASS” School Bussing plans visit their website.
To support successful case and contact management, schools will ensure records of classes, transported students, and visitors to the school are maintained and readily available to the Public Health authority for contact tracing purposes. If you or your child has had close contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19, you will be contacted and provided with follow-up information.
In these uncertain times, an important way to care for others is to care for ourselves. If you are feeling worried or uncomfortable about sending your children back to school, you’re not alone, that is to be expected. Be sure to deal with your emotions in healthy ways by staying physically active, eating and sleep well, and talking openly with loved ones. If you are feeling so overwhelmed that it is impacting your day to day functioning, you may want to reach out to a mental health professional.
Your child is experiencing a lot of emotions right now, you can support them in a few ways:
• Help them identify their emotions and express them in a safe way. Talk about how certain emotions feel, discuss safe ways to express them (ie. drawing, physical activity, journaling, etc.), and let them know those feelings are natural.
• Help them prepare for back to school (or any other new) experience. Practice masking at home, as much as possible share what they can expect to see and what might be different, and help them cultivate patience and kindness towards themselves and others. This is new for everyone.
• Reassure them that this will pass. Feeling uncertain or worried is often temporary and will subside with time. Having healthy ways to cope with these feelings can help children become more resilient. Learn more about mental health and back to school at School Mental Health Ontario.
Don’t panic. Your child may be sick for any number of reasons. If your child is sick, at home or at school, please refer to our guidance document for next steps: “Your child is sick. Now what?” If you choose to have a test, an appointment is required. Please book online by going to app.getcorigan.ca. If unable to book online, call Lambton Public Health: 519-383-8331 or toll free 1-800-667-1839. You can find more on our Testing and Assessment centres page.
More information on what to expect when you get your COVID-19 test (for children)
Public Health will work closely with the school community and will call close contacts of confirmed cases with follow up information. You will be contacted if your child is considered a close contact of a confirmed case. If you have not been contacted, you have not been in close contact with the confirmed case.
Close contacts will be dismissed from school for a self-isolation period of 14-days from last exposure to the case (unless the contact becomes a case, which would extend the isolation period). Contacts should self-monitor for symptoms and are recommended to get tested. The rest of the family will be asked to self-monitor and only leave home for essential purposes (work, school, child care, medical appointments, food) unless they also had direct contact with the positive case.
The local public health unit (PHU) is responsible for determining if an outbreak exists, declaring an outbreak, and providing direction on outbreak control measures.
An outbreak in a school is defined as two or more lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in students and/or staff in a school with an epidemiological link, within a 14-day period, where at least one case could have reasonably acquired their infection in the school (including transportation and before or after school care).
Even though an outbreak may be declared in the school, the public health unit will assist in determining which groups (cohort(s)) may be sent home or if a partial or full school closure is required based on the size of the outbreak. The local public health unit will work with the school to determine epidemiological links (e.g., cases in the same class, cases that are part of the same before/after school care cohort, cases that have assigned bus seats in close proximity to each other). The PHU will determine which cohorts are determined to be “close contacts” requiring isolation.
Reopening the school
The outbreak does not necessarily need to be over to re-open the school. Cohorts without evidence of transmission can be gradually brought back to school as additional information and test results become available. Consideration should be given to implementing additional preventive measures and active surveillance as part of re-opening.
Outbreak declared over
An outbreak will be declared over by the PHU. This may be based on:
• at least 14 days from the last outbreak associated case (including in a student, staff, essential visitor, or anyone else in the school during the outbreak)
• no further symptomatic individuals with tests pending
Depending on the timing of when the children test positive, an outbreak may be declared. An outbreak in a school is defined as two or more lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in students and/or staff in a school with an epidemiological link, within a 14-day period, where at least one case could have reasonably acquired their infection in the school (including transportation and before or after school care).
Even if an outbreak is declared, the entire school may not need to be shut down. Public Health will assist in determining which groups (cohort(s)) may need to be sent home based on the size of an outbreak. Lambton Public Health will work with schools to determine the epidemiological links and determine which cohorts are determined to be “close contacts” requiring isolation.
COVID-19 Directive #3 for Long-Term Care Homes issued by the Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH) establishes procedures and precautions for visits to long-term care homes and retirement homes.
Visitors are required to follow public health measures (e.g., active screening, physical distancing, hand hygiene, masking) for the duration of their visit in the home; non-compliance could result in a discontinuation of visits. See the following documents for full details:
• COVID-19: Visiting Long-term Care Homes. (visitors are required to pass COVID-19 test requirement)
• Retirement Home COVID-19 Visiting Policy (visitors are not required to pass COVID-19 test requirement) Call the home for more information.
• COVID-19: Long-term care homes in areas with visitor restrictions
Before visiting any resident for the first time, training should be provided to caregivers by the home on how to safely provide direct care. After visiting a resident for the first time and at least once every month after, the home should ask caregivers to verbally attest that they have re-read the home’s visitor policy.
The home’s visitor guidance should include the following Public Health Ontario training resources:
• Putting on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – Guidance Document
• Putting on Putting on One-Piece Facial Protection -Video
• Taking off One-Piece Facial Protection – Video
• How to Hand Wash – Video
Ask a Question
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