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Case and contact management in schools continues to be of high priority for the Saskatchewan Health Authority. Timely notification of potential exposures for staff and students will assist in keeping students in the school setting, which supports their mental health; academic, social and physical development; and reduce the social inequities that result from extended employee absences to care for their children. With the announcement that asymptomatic, vaccinated individuals no longer require a confirmatory PCR test following a positive rapid antigen test, schools have updated their process for notifying close-contacts of cases, with an aim to ensure that there continues to be timely notification.
Positive COVID-19 test results for school-based staff or students, from either rapid antigen or PCR tests, must be reported to the local school office. The school will then send a notification to parents/guardians of the class and/or bus cohort that may be considered close contacts. Schools will also inform their local medical health officers of any suspect outbreaks to ensure that school outbreak information is updated.
In the event of a positive test result or contact with a positive case, the following flow chart provides a visual of the steps to consider and implications for students as noted in the updated Public Health Order.
Unvaccinated pupils that are identified as a close contact of a household case will not be exempted from the requirement to isolate for 10 days. They may not attend school.
Staff Member as Close Contact
Staff members (teachers, educational assistants, bus drivers, etc.) who are not fully vaccinated and identified as a close contact from any exposure to a COVID-19 case are NOT exempt from self-isolation for 10 days following last exposure.
Schools should assume that staff members who are close contacts due to cases in school are unvaccinated and required to self-isolate unless the staff member provides proof of vaccination. Fully vaccinated staff who are asymptomatic may continue to work as usual while they monitor themselves for symptoms.
Outbreaks in Schools
If a medical health officer (MHO) declares an outbreak in a school setting, public health will notify the school and will provide communication that the school will disseminate through existing distribution lists. MHOs may order schools to implement specific outbreak control measures, according to The Public Health Act.
Public disclosure of outbreaks in schools will continue to be available on Saskatchewan.ca.
COVID-19 Prevention in School Settings
Experience indicates that school-associated cases reflect community transmission, and the risk of transmission within schools is low when routine and enhanced infection control precautions are in place. Medical health officers strongly encourage schools to implement additional enhanced precautions including:
The Ministry of Health and medical health officers will continue to monitor school case rates and transmission patterns. School divisions are encouraged to use their established processes for schools to monitor absenteeism and report illness that are of benefit to the control of COVID-19. Schools are required to report cases or carriers of communicable diseases to the medical health officer, as per The Public Health Act, 1994.
Masking for Schools
As of September 17, 2021, mask use in all indoor public locations in Saskatchewan including in schools is mandatory until further notice.
All spectators, staff, volunteers and those who are coaching are not exempt from the mask policy. Students who are walking to the stage, courts, ice, pitch, etc. must wear masks; however, when they begin play, the masks may be removed.
When does my child have to isolate?
Like adults, unvaccinated children who are exposed to a case within their household are required to self-isolate for 10 days from their last exposure and cannot attend school or daycare.
Unvaccinated children that were exposed to COVID-19 outside of their household (school, extracurricular activities or other community places) and who do not have symptoms may leave self-isolation only to attend school or their regular daycare for the hours childcare is required. They cannot attend any extracurricular activities and must wear a mask unless they are aged two or under.
Why the focus on household exposures?
There is a higher risk of transmission within households due to closer and more prolonged interactions. Household members commonly share meals, spaces such as bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchens, and most likely don’t wear masks when together. When a household member tests positive for COVID-19 and is isolating in the home, it is difficult to prevent ongoing exposures even when household members try to isolate from others in the home.
Does my child have to isolate if they are vaccinated?
Children who are fully immunized (14 days after a second dose of a two-dose vaccination) and do not have any symptoms do not need to isolate. If they develop symptoms, they should get tested and must isolate regardless of vaccination status. If the test is negative, they should stay home until their symptoms have improved for 48 hours.
What if my child develops symptoms of COVID-19 after being exposed to a case?
All individuals should self-monitor following an exposure. If your child develops symptoms, your child should get tested and not attend school or daycare.
If your child is not fully immunized (14 days after a second dose of a two-dose vaccination):
If your child is fully immunized, they should not attend school until their symptoms have improved for 48 hours. Proof of a negative test is not required for children to return to school or daycare.
My child attends childcare before and after school. Does the exemption apply to child care and daycares?
Daycare, including before and after school, is included within the exemption. Children who have been exposed outside of the household can continue to go to daycare as long as they do not have any symptoms. They will not be able to participate in before and after-school extracurricular activities that aren’t associated with the care of minors, e.g. volleyball, swimming, chess club, etc.
Does this apply to preschools and playschools?
Playschools and preschools are not included in the exemption. Children in playschool and preschool must not attend playschool or preschool at any time during their self-isolation period if they are close contacts to a confirmed case.
Only Pre-Kindergarten to grade 12 students that attend curriculum-based programming and children that attend daycare will be notified by public health of classroom exposures and exempt from self-isolation to attend classes or daycare.
If a child that goes to pre/playschool also attends daycare, they can continue to attend daycare for the hours childcare is required as long as they were not exposed to a case within their household and do not have any symptoms.
Why aren’t teachers exempted from isolation when there’s a classroom exposure?
As COVID-19 transmission risk is higher from adults to adults and from adults to children in school, household and community settings, teachers who not fully immunized must self-isolate if they are a close contact to a case.
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