Navigating the reopening of schools, child care and day camps, both home-based and centre-based, is a challenging task and will require a team effort. We have created this space to help since the guidelines from the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education change routinely. These resources are intended to support you and your teams to reduce or mitigate risks of transmission related to COVID-19. Please consider the following tips for implementation:

  1. Be practical – measures that have too many steps, are too complicated or too challenging to operationalize may not be sustainable and may not have much impact on disease transmission.
  2. Be kind – measures that aren’t implemented with kindness and caring intent will erode the social and emotional environment of your school.

NOTE: This information is subject to the January 3 Provincial announcement RE: Ontario moving to Modified Step 2.

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Frequently Asked Questions

SYMPTOMS & ISOLATION: Does my child need to stay home? 

Children experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should assume that they may have the virus and self-isolate according to their vaccination status:

Fully Vaccinated/Under 12 Years of Age – Must isolate for 5 days from symptom onset 
Unvaccinated/ Partially Vaccinated/ Immunocompromised – Must self-isolate for 10 days from symptom onset

The provincial symptom list includes fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath, and decreased or loss of taste or smell. Two or more of the following symptoms may also be indicative of COVID-19: runny nose or nasal congestion, headache, extreme fatigue, sore throat, muscle aches or joint pain, and gastrointestinal symptoms (such as nausea, vomiting or diarrhea).

Anyone who is sick should stay home until their symptoms have improved for at least 24 hours (or 48 hours for gastrointestinal symptoms). If symptoms are due to allergies or another underlying condition, consider contacting your health care provider to support the discussion with your childcare provider/school.

SYMPTOMS: Does my child need to get tested? 

Publicly-funded PCR testing is currently being prioritised for the most vulnerable Ontarians and high-risk settings such as hospitals or congregate living settings. Eligibility criteria for PCR testing can be found here.

Children who test positive on an at-home or on-site rapid antigen test do not need a confirmatory PCR test and are considered positive for COVID-19. These individuals should isolate and return to school only once completing their isolation determined by their vaccine status (see below) with 24-48 hours of symptom improvement.

Fully Vaccinated/Under 12 Years of Age – Must isolate for 5 days from symptom onset or date of positive test result
Unvaccinated/ Partially Vaccinated/ Immunocompromised – Must self-isolate for 10 days from symptom onset or date of positive test result 

SYMPTOMS: How do you know if a child’s cough is a symptom of COVID-19?

Any respiratory symptoms in children should be assessed. If a child is simply clearing their throat, or has an underlying/pre-existing medical condition which is often accompanied by a cough, this is likely not a respiratory symptom of COVID-19. If a cough is unusual for the child – whether “barking” or mild – it should be considered a potential symptom of COVID-19 and the child should be removed from school to isolate.

CLOSE CONTACT & ISOLATION: What does my child have to do if they were exposed to someone who may have had COVID-19? 

If the child is considered a close contact, they should self-isolate according to their vaccination status (see below). Household members are not required to isolate unless the individual tests positive or develops symptoms. 

Fully Vaccinated (not symptomatic and not immunocompromised) 
• Are not required to isolate following exposure.
• Must self-monitor for symptoms for 10 days.
• If symptoms develop they are to self-isolate for 5 days from their symptom onset.

Unvaccinated/Partially Vaccinated, or Immunocompromised
• Are required to self-isolate for 10 days from last exposure, regardless of whether the individual develops symptoms.

Anyone Under 12 Years of Age (not symptomatic and not immunocompromised)
• Are not required to isolate following exposure.
• Must self-monitor for symptoms for 10 days.
• If symptoms develop they are to self-isolate for 5 days from their symptom onset.

ISOLATION: Can parents/guardians go to work? Can siblings go to school/daycare?

All household members of a child who is sick with COVID-19 symptoms or has tested positive need to self-isolate away from the individual for the duration of the child’s isolation, regardless of vaccination status. 

If the child is considered a close contact, they should self-isolate according to their vaccination status (see below). Household members are not required to isolate unless the individual tests positive or develops symptoms. 

Fully Vaccinated (not symptomatic and not immunocompromised)
• Are not required to isolate following exposure.
• Must self-monitor for symptoms for 10 days.
• If symptoms develop they are to self-isolate for 5 days from their symptom onset.

Unvaccinated/Partially Vaccinated, or Immunocompromised
• Are required to self-isolate for 10 days from last exposure, regardless of whether the individual develops symptoms.

Anyone Under 12 Years of Age (not symptomatic and not immunocompromised)
• Are not required to isolate following exposure.
• Must self-monitor for symptoms for 10 days.
• If symptoms develop they are to self-isolate for 5 days from their symptom onset.

ISOLATION: Can my child go outside? 

Yes, however they must still self-isolate and can not gather/play with other children. 

ISOLATION: Can my child isolate in multiple households (ex. Joint custody, multiple caregivers) 

Children who need to self-isolate should try to do so in one location. In the case of multiple parents or caregivers across multiple households, it is recommended that one household is designated to isolate and provide ongoing support and care to the child. However, if there is a custody arrangement in place this must be followed. Any household with a member in isolation due to COVID-19 symptoms or testing positive for COVID-19 need to isolate for the duration of the case’s isolation, regardless of vaccination status.

For further guidance when supporting children who need to self-isolate, refer to Public Health Ontario’s How to Care for a Child Who Needs to Self-Isolate or Steps to Justice’s FAQ

ISOLATION: Can a child in isolation go to extracurriculars? Can siblings/household members of a child in isolation go to extracurriculars?

Children in self-isolation may not leave their home to go to extracurriculars such as sports or music lessons. Children who need to self-isolate – whether due to being a close contact, having symptoms of COVID-19, or testing positive for COVID-19 – cannot leave their home except to get tested or seek medical care.

Household members (such as siblings or parents) of a child isolating due to symptoms or testing positive must also isolate for the same duration as the child, regardless of vaccination status