Supporting schools

Last revised on September 22, 2021

Some of this content is under review and will be updated in coming weeks. The content will be made current for the upcoming 2021-2022 school year.

On this page:

Information for parents: Child care and COVID-19

Overview

Ottawa Public Health Return to School Letter for Parents (pdf - 241 KB) (available in Arabic and Somali) (This document is currently not in an accessible format. An accessible document will be posted shortly)

We recognize that this is a difficult time due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the decision to send your child(ren) to school is not easy. Each family should assess their own individual situation especially if your child(ren), family and household members are at higher risk for serious outcomes due to the COVID-19 virus. You may also want to consider your child’s health condition, their learning needs, your family’s ability to find childcare and resources to assist in providing home schooling. Each family should choose what is best for them.

There are so many positive benefits to the overall health and wellness of children and youth as we return to in-person learning. With the many protections in place in our community and schools, we can have confidence about a return to in-person learning.  With the support of the COVID 19 vaccine, and other public health measures, the community has done a great job keeping the rates of COVID-19 low and this will help our schools as well.

As we return to school it’s important to please continue to screen your children for symptoms each day to avoid bringing COVID-19 into the schools. Screening and testing are very important measures that help control the spread of COVID-19. Even if you or your child is fully vaccinated, you must continue with daily screening and testing if you or your child have one or more COVID-19 symptom.

Keeping COVID-19 transmission low in the community is important to help prevent the introduction of the virus into schools. Parents, OPH and school boards each have a role to play in making the return to school as safe as possible.

Ottawa Public Health will continue to monitor the situation in schools, evaluate and share new information as it becomes available. We will communicate COVID-19 updates to you in a number of ways, such as on our website, through social media, messages through the school boards and notices home.

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COVID-19 screening tool for school or child care

The purpose of this screening tool is to help parents and guardians make decisions about whether their child can attend school/child care. This screening tool should be completed daily before attending school/child care for each individual child separately. No personal information is requested when completing this tool, which means that you and/or your child cannot be personally identified or linked to your responses. It is recommended that you contact a health care provider if you have more questions about your child’s health. This tool is subject to change as further guidance from the Ministry of Health and evidence related to COVID-19 risks becomes available.

COVID-19 screening tool for school or child care

COVID-19 symptoms in children

When assessing for symptoms, focus on whether they are new, worsening or different from your child’s baseline health status or usual state. Symptoms associated with known chronic health conditions or related to other known causes/conditions should not be considered unless new, different or worsening.  

This chart does not replace the need to complete screening each day before school or childcare. The screening tool acts as a decision guide to support parents and guardians to assess whether or not their child can attend school or childcare. Please complete daily for each child separately. 

Type Symptoms

Most common symptoms of COVID-19

  • Symptoms most commonly associated with COVID-19 infection
  • Children with one of the listed symptoms, should stay home, isolate and get tested for COVID-19 as soon as possible
  • Fever (temperature 37.8 C/100 F or higher) 

  • Chills 

  • Cough (more than usual if chronic cough) including croup (barking cough, making a whistling noise when breathing) not related to other known causes or conditions (for example, asthma, reactive airway) 

  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea, out of breath, unable to breathe deeply, wheeze, that is worse than usual if chronically short of breath) not related to other known causes or conditions (for example, asthma) 

  • Decrease or loss of smell or taste (new olfactory or taste disorder) not related to other knows causes or conditions (for example, nasal polyps, allergies, neurological disorders) 

  • Nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea, not related to other known causes or conditions (transient vomiting due to anxiety in children, chronic vestibular dysfunction, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, side effect of medication)

Other symptoms of COVID-19

  • Children with one or more of these symptom(s) must stay at home and isolate. 
  • Children who are high-risk contacts* must get tested for COVID-19 as soon as possible. 
    • Household contacts (including siblings) who do not have symptoms and are fully vaccinated* do not need to isolate. Household contacts who have symptoms OR who are not fully vaccinated need to isolate.
  • Children who are not high-risk contacts, do not need to get tested but must stay home until symptoms are improving for at least 24 hours.
    • Household contacts (including siblings) who do not have symptoms do not need to isolate and can leave the home (regardless of vaccination status).   
  • Sore throat (painful swallowing or difficulty swallowing) not related to other known causes or conditions (for example, postnasal drip, gastroesophageal (acid) reflux) 

  • Stuffy nose and/or runny nose (nasal congestion and/or rhinorrhea) not related to other known causes or conditions (for example, seasonal allergies, returning inside from the cold, chronic sinusitis unchanged from baseline, reactive airways) 

  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye) (Not related to blepharitis, recurrent styes.) 

  • Decreased or lack of appetite (Not related to anxiety, constipation.) 

  • Headache that is new or persistent, unusual, unexplained or long-lasting not related to known causes or conditions (for example, tension-type headache, chronic migraines) and not related to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine in the last 48 hours 

  • Extreme tiredness, lack of energy or feeling unwell (That is unusual or unexpected (not related to other known causes or conditions or receiving a COVID-19 vaccine in the past 48 hours).) 

  • Muscle aches and pains (That are unexplained or unusual (not related to other known causes or conditions or receiving a COVID-19 vaccine the past 48 hours).) 

 

 

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New changes to self-isolation for fully vaccinated people (New updates September 17, 2021)

If your child has COVID-19 like symptoms: household contacts that are fully vaccinated, and do not have any COVID-19 symptoms, do not need to isolate while waiting for the symptomatic child’s test results.

 

Note: Fully vaccinated means that it has been at least 14 days since you received:​

  • the full series of a COVID-19 vaccine authorized by Health Canada (e.g., 2 doses of Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca/COVIDSHIELD, OR 1 dose of Janssen [Johnson & Johnson]) or any combination of such vaccines, OR​
  • one or two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine not authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Sinopharm) followed by one dose of a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) OR​
  • three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine not authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Abdala).​

If you do not have any symptoms of COVID-19 and were fully vaccinated at the time of your high-risk exposure to someone with COVID-19, you do not need to self-isolate at home or in the community. However, there are some exceptions

If someone is fully vaccinated and develops symptoms of COVID-19, they are still required to self-isolate and seek testing.

For more information on what to do if you are high risk contact of someone with COVID-19 visit COVID-19 High Risk Contacts for more information.

Process when a person tests positive for COVID-19

Ottawa Public Health’s (OPH) goal is to prevent further transmission of COVID-19 and to keep children and school staff safe. If someone tests positive for COVID-19 in a school, OPH will work in collaboration with the school to reduce the risk of COVID-19 by implementing some or all of the following measures:

  • Communicating regularly with the school
  • Reviewing and confirming important practices to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 including:  
    • Screening children and staff for exposure to or symptoms of COVID-19
    • Staying home when sick
    • Cohorting (grouping and separation) students and staff 
    • Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces 
    • Using personal protective equipment when appropriate (e.g., masking)
    • Ensuring proper hand hygiene
    • Posting signage of appropriate public health measures (e.g., hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene)
    • Maintaining physical distancing 
  • Doing a site visit to the school and provide further advice, when indicated 
  • Providing recommendations on testing, as per provincial guidelines 
  • Assessing whether school operations can continue and if any additional measures are needed  
  • Identifying people who may have been in contact with the person(s) who tested positive for COVID-19  
  • Contacting those affected directly to provide guidance  
  • If school operations were interrupted as part of outbreak management, determining when operations can safely resume 
  • Helping the school ensure important practices remain in place long term  

Protocol When Staff or Students Test Positive for COVID-19 (pdf - 248 KB) (This document is currently not in an accessible format. An accessible document will be posted shortly)

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School decision guides, safety plan checklist and sample letters to parents/guardians

School decision guides

Letters to parents/guardians

شهادة بالعودة إلى المدرسة / دار رعاية الطفل بعد المرض

Sample letters to parents/guardians

  • When an individual who attends or works at a school has tested positive for COVID-19, all families at the school will receive this letter ( Individual has tested positive for COVID-19 identified at school (pdf - 216 KB) This document is currently not in an accessible format. An accessible document will be posted shortly) as a notification. This does not mean you or your child is a high-risk contact. If you or your child are identified as high-risk contact(s), OPH will contact you directly with an automated message (emails, phone messages, text messages).

For more information on ‘high-risk contacts’, contact tracing and important isolation information, please visit the COVID-19 High risk contacts page. If you or a household member have been identified as a high-risk contact, you will be asked to review the information.

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Roles

Ottawa Public Health and the COVID School Support Team’s role:

Each school in Ottawa will have a dedicated Public Health Nurse (PHN) working to support the health and well-being of staff, children, and youth in the school community. OPH supports school boards and schools in accordance with provincial standards and guidance.

OPH, in collaboration with school boards and schools, will:

  • Support the development and implementation of COVID-19 health and safety plans (e.g., protocol when a student becomes sick at school).
  • Provide setting-specific support for the implementation of infection prevention and control measures including school site visits by PHNs
  • Support and facilitate screening, testing, isolation, vaccination, and re-entry after COVID-19 exposure.
  • Work with other OPH teams to manage staff and students  who have tested positive for COVID-19 to ensure they are on isolation.
  • Ensure staff and students who were exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 are notified in a timely manner and provided next steps and supports. Provide guidance to schools on confirming and controlling outbreaks.
  • Support communication, engagement, and linkages within the school community, including parents/guardians and community agencies and resources.
  • Facilitate access to public health programs and services, support knowledge transfer and build capacity amongst school staff, students, and their families.
  • Conduct assessments and identify priority health topics and populations in school communities and provide support and referral as needed.

School board’s role

  • Develops and implements reopening plans following guidelines and recommendations from the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education and Ottawa Public Health.
  • Communicates with the school community about COVID-19 prevention measures and how those who have tested positive for COVID 19 and outbreaks will be supported, in collaboration with OPH.
  • Support OPH and other stakeholders as appropriate, with the identification and follow up of people with COVID-19, their contacts and places experiencing outbreaks of COVID-19.
  • Ensures accurate records of staff and students’ attendance, as well up-to-date contact information for staff and students that can be accessed in a timely manner for investigations and communications.
  • Facilitates training of school staff with respect to outbreak prevention and control measures and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Role of parent(s)/ guardian(s)

  • Using the screening tool, screen every child in your care every morning. The tool will help you decide whether your child should go to school or child care that day. Screening is important, even if you or your child is fully vaccinated.
  • Have your child tested for COVID-19 based on recommendations of screening tool, health care provider or Ottawa Public Health (OPH).
  • Keep your symptomatic child(ren) home while waiting for COVID-19 test results and/ or if they are a high risk contact of a positive COVID-19 case. Fully vaccinated, asymptomatic high risk contacts are not required to isolate unless otherwise told by OPH.
  • Call the school as soon as possible if your child:
    • Has COVID-19 like symptoms and will not be attending school
    • Tested positive for COVID-19 and is self-isolating or
    • Is self-isolating because they are a close contact of a positive case
  • Provide the school with up-to-date contact information for each parent or guardian and emergency contacts.
  • Inform the school of any medical conditions your child(ren) may have (provide appropriate documents to the school as needed).
  • Ensure your child’s immunizations are up to date.
  • Have a plan in place in the event your child cannot attend school for an extended period or is required to go home during the day.
  • Read all communications from the school and OPH and check the Supporting schools during COVID-19 web page regularly.
  • Contact the Ottawa Public Health Information Centre (OPHIC) at 613-580-6744 if you have any questions about any letter or message received from OPH.
  •  Please note: Parents/guardians do not need to call OPH to inform them that a child is sick, has COVID-like symptoms, or has a negative COVID result. OPH will contact parents as needed. 

Useful links:

As we learn to live with COVID-19, we must continue to be social wise and recognize that all of us have a role to play when it comes to reducing the spread of the virus.

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Frequently asked questions

COVID-19 testing and results

Is screening and testing still important even if my child is only doing virtual learning? 

Yes. COVID-19 screening and testing must continue even if children are not attending school in person. Although children are participating in school virtually, the infection can spread between members of the household and then to others in the community. Members of the household may work or access services out of the house and transmission in the home and community can occur as a result. This spread has resulted in added pressures on the health care system . Screening is important to make sure that if your child has symptoms, you ensure that they are tested. 

If someone is fully vaccinated, it is important they continue with screening and testing if they have symptoms of COVID-19. Screening, testing and self-isolation can decrease spread in the community. 

Should I have my child tested for COVID-19 before they go back to school/child care?
Testing your child before returning to school/child care is generally not recommended if they do not have COVID-19 symptoms, unless they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. OPH is currently recommending testing for people showing symptoms of COVID-19 or who are in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
Should teachers and school/child care staff be tested for COVID-19 before returning to work?

Teachers and staff do not need to be tested before returning to school/child care unless they have COVID-19 symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Does my child need to have a negative COVID-19 test result or a doctor’s note in order to return to school/child care after recovering from COVID-19?

No. Children can return to school/child care if they have completed their 10 days of self-isolation, have no fever (without use of fever reducing medications) and their symptoms have been improving* for 24 hours (48 hours if the symptoms were vomiting and/or diarrhea). Isolation may be extended beyond 10 days, if directed by OPH.

*Note: Mild symptoms like a runny nose do not have to be completely gone when your child returns to school/child care provided the mild symptom is improving and other symptoms have stopped.

Do staff need to have a negative COVID-19 test result or a doctor’s note in order to return to work after recovering from COVID-19?
No. Staff can return to school/child care if they have completed their 10 days of self-isolation, have no fever (without use of fever reducing medications) and their symptoms have been improving for 24 hours*. Isolation may be extended beyond 10 days, if directed by OPH.
If someone in my child’s school or child care setting tests positive for COVID-19 do I need to get my child tested?
If someone from a school or child care setting tests positive for COVID-19 and your child is not considered a high-risk contact, you do not need to have your child tested or keep them home. Ottawa Public Health will reach out to parents directly if it is determined that their child is considered a high-risk contact and provide advice on if and when testing is necessary.
What happens if someone in my child’s class/child care tests positive for COVID-19?

If someone in a school or childcare setting tests positive for COVID-19 and your child is a close high-risk contact, OPH will contact you directly with an automated message (emails, phone messages, text messages). The automated message will include details on how and when to get tested for COVID-19 and further actions to take. These actions will include self-isolation instructions for your child and household members. An OPH case manager will then contact you directly with information when applicable. You will receive a notification from your child’s school as well.

How will I find out if my child is positive or negative for COVID-19 after they have been tested?

When you bring your child in for testing at one of the COVID Assessment Centres or Care Clinics you will be given information on how to access their test results on a secure online portal, MyChart or Ontario Ministry portal. A lab will process the swab taken from your child and upload the test result to the online portal.

Public Health Ontario indicates that if someone has not received their results online within four days of being tested, they should contact their health care provider. It can take two to five days for lab results to be received and timelines are dependent on the lab’s capacity. The status of your child’s test can be checked at any time online.

What happens if my child tests positive for COVID-19 and I have another child/children in the same school/child care or a different school/child care?

If your child is diagnosed with COVID-19, all their household contacts (for example siblings, parents/guardians, roommates) may have to self-isolate, depending on their vaccination status. An OPH case manager will assess the situation and provide guidance for household contacts. This includes assessing the vaccination status of each household member.

For more information on ‘high-risk contacts’, contact tracing, and important isolation information, please visit the COVID-19 High risk contacts page. If you or a household member have been identified as a high-risk contact, you will be asked to review the information.

Household contacts who do not have COVID-19 symptoms (asymptomatic) and are fully vaccinated* are not required to isolate, unless told otherwise by OPH. Testing is recommended.

Household contacts who are not fully vaccinated* will be required to self-isolate for at least 10 days from their last contact with the positive case. If you have children in school or daycare that are not vaccinated, they must self-isolate. OPH will provide information on the length of isolation for any non-vaccinated household members that may have ongoing contact with the positive child. Isolation could be at least 20 days.

 

Note: Fully vaccinated means that it has been at least 14 days since you received:​

  • the full series of a COVID-19 vaccine authorized by Health Canada (e.g., 2 doses of Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca/COVIDSHIELD, OR 1 dose of Janssen [Johnson & Johnson]) or any combination of such vaccines, OR​
  • one or two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine not authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Sinopharm) followed by one dose of a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) OR​
  • three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine not authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Abdala).​

 

Please see Self-Isolation Instructions for Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) for more information.

What happens if my child was ill and they test NEGATIVE for COVID-19?

If your child tests negative for COVID-19, they cannot return to school/child care until at least 24 hours after the symptoms have been improving* without fever-reducing medication or 48 hours after vomiting or diarrhea has resolved. All household contacts can also end self-isolation.

*Note: Mild symptoms like a runny nose do not have to be completely gone when your child returns to school provided the mild symptom is improving and other symptoms have stopped.

What happens if my child is ill with COVID-like symptoms and I choose not to have them tested?

OPH strongly encourages testing if children have a symptom(s) consistent with the most common COVID-19 symptoms. Please follow the direction of the screening tool each morning before school and or childcare.

If your child is ill with symptom(s) that are consistent with the most common COVID-19 symptoms and you do not have them tested, the child must self-isolate for a minimum of 10 days and until symptoms have been improving for 24 hours and the child has no fever, without use of fever reducing medications (or 48 hours after vomiting or diarrhea have resolved) before returning to school/childcare.

If your child has ‘other symptoms of COVID-19’, and is not a high-risk contact, your child does not need to get a COVID-19 test, but cannot attend school or childcare until symptoms have been improving for 24 hours and the child has no fever, without use of fever reducing medications (or 48 hours after vomiting or diarrhea have resolved).

Your child is still eligible for COVID-19 testing if you choose to test for ‘other COVID-19 symptoms’ but it is not required. If you get your child tested, they must stay home and self-isolate until a negative test result is received AND symptoms have been improving for 24 hours and the child has no fever, without use of fever reducing medications (or 48 hours after vomiting or diarrhea have resolved).

IF your child is a high-risk contact of a positive COVID-19 case, they are required to be tested if they show ANY symptom(s) (Most common symptoms of COVID-19 or Other Symptoms of COVID-19 of the COVID-19 symptoms in the Symptoms chart.

Note: Mild symptoms like a runny nose do not have to be completely gone when your child completes isolation and returns to school/childcare provided the mild symptom is improving and other symptoms have stopped.

Household contacts who are not fully vaccinated* of someone experiencing ‘most common symptoms of COVID-19:

They must self-isolate for 10 days following their last contact with the symptomatic child who is experiencing the ‘most common COVID-19 symptoms’ This applies if the symptomatic child can self-isolate away from the rest of the household. If household members who are not fully vaccinated, cannot isolate from the symptomatic child with the ‘main COVID-19 symptoms’ (will come into contact with them or share space) then the household members must complete an additional 10 days of isolation beginning the day the symptomatic child ends their isolation.

Household contacts of someone experiencing ‘other COVID-19 symptoms,’ are not required to self-isolate, unless you choose to have your child tested (regardless of vaccination status).

Household contacts who are fully vaccinated* of someone experiencing ‘most common symptoms of COVID-19: If they do not have any symptoms, they do not need to isolate. Fully vaccinated household contacts should be tested on or after day 7.  If the fully vaccinated individual becomes symptomatic, they must self-isolate immediately and get tested.

*Fully vaccinated means that it has been at least 14 days since you received:​

  • The full series of a COVID-19 vaccine authorized by Health Canada (e.g., 2 doses of Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca/COVIDSHIELD, OR 1 dose of Janssen [Johnson & Johnson]) or any combination of such vaccines, OR ​
  • One or two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine not authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Sinopharm) followed by one dose of a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) OR
  • Three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine not authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Abdala).​
How fast is OPH able to investigate the possible transmission of COVID-19 to others in a school following a positive test result?

OPH initiates the investigation as soon as possible. The School Nurse contacts the school administration to ensure notification of the school and request information on the close contacts of person who tested positive for COVID-19. Information needed can include: class lists & seating charts, staff list, transportation lists and seating charts and before and after school child care lists. The Public Health Nurse will work with the school, staff member or the parent/guardian of the student who tested positive for COVID-19, to find out where the individual may have acquired the infection. OPH will work with the school to determine which students and/or staff are high-risk contacts.

How will schools be informed if a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19?

An OPH School Nurse will contact the school as soon as OPH is made aware of a positive lab result to begin an investigation. 

If the positive lab result is received by OPH after operating hours, OPH will reach out to the school the following day. The priority is always to ensure that any student or staff member who tests positive for COVID-19 does not attend school the following day. 

It is possible that a person who tests positive for COVID-19 receives their results on the online portal before being contacted by OPH. The school should be contacted immediately by parents/guardians or school staff member. 

Parents are asked to call their school principal if their child tests positive for COVID-19.  

Will the identity of an individual diagnosed with COVID-19 be made public by the school or OPH?

No. All personal health information including identities are kept confidential as per the Ontario Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004 to protect privacy, and prevent stigma or harassment of an individual.

How will OPH be informed if my child receives a positive COVID-19 test result?

When a swab tests positive for COVID-19, the test result and contact information of the individual are sent to OPH by the lab. Parents/Guardians will be receiving information from Ottawa Public Health through an email, letter or automated message to notify them that their child has received a positive test result. An OPH Staff will be assigned to work with the parent/guardian of the child to provide follow-up details.

Will OPH publicly report when there is only one positive case in a school/ child care?

No. OPH is required by the Ministry of Health to publicly report when an outbreak is declared. In a school or child care setting this represents two cases that are linked. According to the Ministry to Education, schools and child care settings are required to report when schools or child care classes or groups are closed.

Parents/Guardians of a child in a school or child care setting that has had a case of COVID-19 will be notified directly if their child is a close contact of the individual or will be affected by a closure. Closures may happen in a class(es) or group(s) or entire facility; whether it is a school or child care setting.

What do I do if one of my children tests negative for COVID-19 despite having COVID-19-like symptoms, but then their school age sibling develops the same symptoms a few days later?  

If a sibling develops one or more symptoms consistent with COVID-19 (see below), they should be tested, even if the child who first experienced symptoms tested negative. 

Symptoms of COVID-19:   

  • Fever and/or chills (Temperature of 37.8 degrees Celsius/100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.) 

  • Cough or barking cough (croup) (Continuous, more than usual, making a whistling noise when breathing (not related to asthma, post-infectious reactive airways).) 

  • Shortness of breath (Out of breath, unable to breathe deeply (not related to asthma).) 

  • Decrease or loss of taste or smell (Not related to seasonal allergies, neurological disorders.) 

  • Nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea (Not related to irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, menstrual cramps.) 

If your child has other symptoms (see below), they should stay home until symptoms have improved for 24 hours (without the use of fever reducing medication). They do not need to be tested unless they have been in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, and their household contacts who do not have symptoms do not need to isolate.  

  • Sore throat (Painful swallowing or difficulty swallowing (not related to seasonal allergies, acid reflux, post nasal drip).) 

  • Runny or stuffy/congested nose (Not related to seasonal allergies, being outside in cold weather, chronic sinusitis unchanged from baseline.) 

  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye) (Not related to blepharitis, recurrent styes.) 

  • Decreased or lack of appetite (Not related to anxiety, constipation.) 

  • Headache (New and persistent, unusual, unexplained, or long-lasting (not related to tension-type headaches, chronic migraines, receiving a COVID-19 vaccine in the last 48 hours).) 

  • Extreme tiredness, lack of energy or feeling unwell (That is unusual or unexpected (not related to other known causes or conditions or receiving a COVID-19 vaccine in the past 48 hours).) 

  • Muscle aches and pains (That are unexplained or unusual (not related to other known causes or conditions or receiving a COVID-19 vaccine the past 48 hours).) 

Your child can go to school/child care if you or anyone in your household got a COVID-19 vaccine in the last 48 hours and is experiencing any of these symptoms that are mild and only began after vaccination: 

  • Headache (Unusual, long-lasting (not related to tension-type headaches, chronic migraines, or other known causes or conditions they already have).) 

  • Extreme tiredness (Unusual fatigue, lack of energy, poor feeding in infants (not related to depression, insomnia, thyroid disfunction, sudden injury, or other known causes or conditions they already have).) 

  • Muscle aches/joint pain (Unusual, long-lasting (not related to sudden injury, fibromyalgia, or other known causes or conditions you already have).) 

Household contacts who are not fully vaccinated are required to self-isolate until the test result is received. Household contacts who are fully vaccinated and also have symptoms are also required to self-isolate until the test result is received.  

After receiving a negative test result, all household members who are not fully vaccinated can stop isolation.  Your child may return to school/child care 24 hours after symptoms have been improving if they have no fever without the use of fever-reducing medications, or 48 hours after vomiting or diarrhea has resolved, provided they do not have a confirmed exposure to COVID-19 and are not required to complete a period of self-isolation. 

Note: Mild symptoms like a runny nose do not have to be completely gone when your child returns to school or child care, provided the mild symptom is improving and other symptoms have stopped.  

*If there are household contacts that are fully vaccinated, and they do not have any COVID-19 symptoms, they do not need to isolate while waiting for the symptomatic child’s test results. If someone is fully vaccinated and develops symptoms of COVID-19, they are still required to self-isolate and seek testing. 

*Note: Fully vaccinated means that it has been at least 14 days since you received:​

  • the full series of a COVID-19 vaccine authorized by Health Canada (e.g., 2 doses of Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca/COVIDSHIELD, OR 1 dose of Janssen [Johnson & Johnson]) or any combination of such vaccines, OR​
  • one or two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine not authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Sinopharm) followed by one dose of a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) OR​
  • three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine not authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Abdala).​

Symptoms /children who are ill

What steps do I need to take if my child becomes ill with symptoms of COVID-19?

You must keep your child home from school/childcare and notify the school/childcare that your child is ill with symptoms that are consistent with COVID-19. We recommend that your child goes to a COVID-19 Assessment Centre or Care Clinic to get tested as soon as possible.

Your child and unvaccinated household contacts* (for example siblings, parents/guardians) are required to self-isolate and stay at home while awaiting test results. If the test is negative (shows your child does not have COVID-19) your child may return to school/child care 24 hours after symptoms have been improving and they have no fever without the use of fever-reducing medications, or 48 hours after vomiting or diarrhea has resolved. All household contacts can also end self-isolation.

If the test result is positive, follow the instructions from Ottawa Public Health. For more information contact Ottawa Public Health at 613-580-6744 or refer to the COVID-19 Assessment Centre and Care Clinics web page.

*If there are household contacts that are fully vaccinated, and they do not have any COVID-19 symptoms, they do not need to isolate while waiting for the symptomatic child’s test results. If someone is fully vaccinated and develops symptoms of COVID-19, they are still required to self-isolate and seek testing.

*Note: Fully vaccinated means that it has been at least 14 days since you received:​

  • the full series of a COVID-19 vaccine authorized by Health Canada (e.g., 2 doses of Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca/COVIDSHIELD, OR 1 dose of Janssen [Johnson & Johnson]) or any combination of such vaccines, OR​
  • one or two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine not authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Sinopharm) followed by one dose of a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) OR​
  • three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine not authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Abdala).​

What happens if my child becomes ill while at school or child care?

During the school day, if your child has symptoms consistent with COVID-19, your child will be separated from other children and supervised by a staff member. Parents/guardians are contacted and asked to bring their child home. Unvaccinated siblings or other household members* that also attend the school or childcare are required to go home and self-isolate. Ottawa Public Health recommends that the child be tested for COVID-19 at one of the Assessment or Care Centres. 

Your child must remain in isolation while waiting for the results of COVID-19 testing and cannot attend school or childcare in person. Siblings and other close contacts are also required to isolate while waiting for test results. For more information on self-isolation instructions visit the OPH website.

Your child and household contacts that are not fully vaccinated* (for example siblings, parents/guardians) are required to self-isolate and stay at home while awaiting test results.

If the test is negative (shows your child does not have COVID-19) your child may return to school/childcare 24 hours after symptoms have been improving without fever-reducing medication, or 48 hours after vomiting or diarrhea has resolved. All household contacts can also end self-isolation.

If the test result is positive, follow the instructions from Ottawa Public Health. For more information contact Ottawa Public Health at 613-580-6744 or refer to the COVID-19 Assessment Centre and Care Clinics web page.

*If there are household contacts that are fully vaccinated, and they do not have any COVID-19 symptoms, they do not need to isolate while waiting for the symptomatic child’s test results. If someone is fully vaccinated and develops symptoms of COVID-19, they are still required to self-isolate and seek testing.

Note: Fully vaccinated means that it has been at least 14 days since you received:​

  • the full series of a COVID-19 vaccine authorized by Health Canada (e.g., 2 doses of Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca/COVIDSHIELD, OR 1 dose of Janssen [Johnson & Johnson]) or any combination of such vaccines, OR​
  • one or two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine not authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Sinopharm) followed by one dose of a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) OR​
  • three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine not authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Abdala).​

Can I send my child to school or childcare if they have seasonal allergies or another underlying health condition that explains their symptoms?  

The COVID-19 screening tool for school or child care is a decision guide to see if it is appropriate for your child to attend school or child care. This screening tool should be completed daily before attending school/child care. Depending on the symptom, the tool will ask if there is an underlying or known cause. If there is a known cause for a symptom, families will need to communicate that to their school or child care and may be required to provide additional details. In some cases, you may be required to consult with your child’s physician. A health care provider may be able to assist in deciding whether symptoms are due to a reason other than COVID-19 (e.g., seasonal allergies, postnasal drip, etc.). It should be noted that having an underlying condition does not necessarily mean that your child does not also have COVID-19.  

Health care providers and parents/guardians should look for differences in their child’s regular symptoms.  

Following an absence due to an underlying or known cause, parent(s) and /guardian(s) can fill out an “Attestation letter for return to school/child care following illness” and provide it to the school or child care when a child has symptoms that are explained by a known cause. 

My child attends school/child care and has a runny nose. What should I do? 

To help you decide whether your child can attend school/child care, please use the COVID-19 screening tool for school or child care each day before school.  If your child has a runny nose, they need to stay home and isolate. Please do not send them to school or childcare. 

If your child has been in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, they should be tested immediately.  Household contacts who are not fully vaccinated*, or any household contact who has symptoms, must also stay home and isolate. Everyone must isolate until test results are received.  

If your child has not had contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, they should stay home until their symptoms have improved for 24 hours (without fever reducing medication). They do not require a COVID-19 test if their only symptom is a runny nose. Household contacts do not need to stay home and isolate.

If symptoms worsen or your child develops additional symptoms that could be COVID-19, seek testing at one of the testing and Assessment Centres or use a home testing kit if provided by your school.  Your child must stay at home on isolation while waiting for the test result.  They cannot attend school/child care. Other household contacts* who are not fully vaccinated must stay home and isolate while waiting for test results.  

If there are household contacts that are fully vaccinated, and they do not have any symptoms, they do not need to isolate while waiting for the symptomatic child’s test results.  

Note: Fully vaccinated means that it has been at least 14 days since you received:​

  • the full series of a COVID-19 vaccine authorized by Health Canada (e.g., 2 doses of Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca/COVIDSHIELD, OR 1 dose of Janssen [Johnson & Johnson]) or any combination of such vaccines, OR​
  • one or two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine not authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Sinopharm) followed by one dose of a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) OR​
  • three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine not authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Abdala).​

If someone is fully vaccinated or previously tested positive for COVID-19 and develops symptoms of COVID-19, they are still required to self-isolate and seek testing.  

If my child receives a vaccine(s) and experiences symptoms afterwards that are similar to COVID-19, do I need to get them tested?

Individuals who receive a COVID-19 vaccine,  influenza immunization or other vaccinations, may experience side effects or adverse vaccine reactions that produce symptoms that may be similar to symptoms of COVID-19, such as:   

  • Fever and/or chills 

  • Feeling tired   

  • Headache or body aches   

  • Nausea   

If symptoms resolve within 48 hours after receiving the vaccine, individuals can end self-isolation 24 hours after symptoms have improved. However, individuals should seek testing for COVID-19 as soon as possible if:   

  • Symptom(s) develop more than 48 hours after vaccination  

  • Symptom(s) persist for more than 48 hours after the first symptom onset  

  • The symptomatic individual has had close contact with a case of COVID-19 in the past 10days   

or  

  • Symptoms are judged by a healthcare provider to be severe and/or not in keeping with a vaccination reaction  

Ottawa Public Health continues to recommend that anyone with symptom(s) of COVID-19 consult with a health care provider if they have questions or concerns.    

If I receive the COVID-19 vaccine and experience symptoms afterwards that are similar to COVID-19, do I need to get tested? 

For more frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccines please see Frequently asked questions about COVID-19 vaccination.

Do all household contacts (e.g., siblings) need to isolate while waiting for test results for a child with symptoms consistent with COVID-19?  

Depending on the vaccination status of household contacts, they may or may not be required to isolate. Your symptomatic child must remain in isolation while waiting for their COVID-19 test results and cannot attend childcare/school.

Unvaccinated siblings and other household contacts* of children with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 who have gone for testing are also required to isolate while waiting for the child’s test results.  

For more information on self-isolation instructions consult the self-isolation guidelines.

If there are household contacts that are fully vaccinated, and they do not have any COVID-19 symptoms, they do not need to isolate while waiting for the symptomatic child’s test results. If someone is fully vaccinated and develops symptoms of COVID-19, they are still required to self-isolate and seek testing.

Note: Fully vaccinated means that it has been at least 14 days since you received:​

  • the full series of a COVID-19 vaccine authorized by Health Canada (e.g., 2 doses of Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca/COVIDSHIELD, OR 1 dose of Janssen [Johnson & Johnson]) or any combination of such vaccines, OR​
  • one or two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine not authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Sinopharm) followed by one dose of a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) OR​
  • three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine not authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Abdala).​

What measures can I take to protect my household members when my child presents with COVID-19 symptoms or has received a positive COVID-19 lab result?  

If a child develops symptoms consistent with COVID-19 or has received a positive COVID-19 lab result, Ottawa Public Health (OPH) recommends, when possible, to: 

  • Limit contacts to one caregiver for the ill child
  • Maintain a physical distance of two metres (six feet)
  • Increase hand hygiene
  • Wear masks within the home, even if fully vaccinated

More information can be found on the Self-Isolation Instructions for Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) page.

When discussing the particulars of the positive results, an OPH staff member will walk the parent/guardian/care giver through all the steps they can take in the home to decrease the risk of transmission.

*If there are household contacts that are fully vaccinated, and they do not have any COVID-19 symptoms, they do not need to isolate while waiting for the symptomatic child’s test results.

Note: Fully vaccinated means that it has been at least 14 days since you received:​

  • the full series of a COVID-19 vaccine authorized by Health Canada (e.g., 2 doses of Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca/COVIDSHIELD, OR 1 dose of Janssen [Johnson & Johnson]) or any combination of such vaccines, OR​
  • one or two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine not authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Sinopharm) followed by one dose of a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) OR​
  • three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine not authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Abdala).​

If you do not have any symptoms of COVID-19 and were fully vaccinated at the time of your high-risk exposure to someone with COVID-19, you do not need to self-isolate at home or in the community. However, there are some exceptions

If household members become symptomatic, they are required to isolate and seek testing. Even if you are fully vaccinated, it is important to wear a mask and maintain physical distancing when outside the home. Self monitor for symptoms and isolate immediately if you develop symptoms of COVID-19.

If a parent/guardian has mild cold symptoms, such as a runny nose/sneezing, are children without any symptoms from that same household required to stay home and self-isolate?

OPH recommends using the screening tools available (for children: COVID-19 screening tool for school or child care and for adults: COVID-19 screening tool for workplaces/post-secondary institutions) and following guidance based on the information provided.  

If an adult has one or more of the symptom(s) below, they need to self-isolate and get tested for COVID-19.  Household contacts who are not fully vaccinated*, or household contacts who are fully vaccinated and have symptoms of COVID-19, must also stay at home and self-isolate.  The adult with symptoms and all household contacts need to stay home on isolation until test results are received or the adult with symptoms is cleared by Ottawa Public Health (OPH).     

  • Fever and/or chills (Temperature of 37.8 degrees Celsius/100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.) 

  • Cough or barking cough (croup) (Continuous, more than usual, making a whistling noise when breathing (not related to asthma, post-infectious reactive airways, COPD).) 

  • Shortness of breath (Out of breath, unable to breathe deeply (not related to asthma).) 

  • Decrease or loss of taste or smell (Not related to seasonal allergies, neurological disorders.) 

  • Muscle aches and pains (That is unexplained or unusual (not related to related to a sudden injury, fibromyalgia, or receiving a COVID-19 vaccine the past 48 hours).) 

  • Extreme tiredness, lack of energy or feeling unwell (That is unusual or unexpected (not related to depression, insomnia, thyroid dysfunction, or receiving a COVID-19 vaccine in the past 48 hours).) 

  • No symptoms 

For more information about testing, visit COVID-19 Testing Information consult Tested, what now?.   

 

If an adult has one or more of the symptom(s) below, they need to stay home and self-isolate until symptoms have improved for 24 hours.  They do not need to get tested for COVID-19 unless they have had close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Their household contacts do not need to isolate and can go to school, childcare and work. 

  • Sore throat (Painful swallowing or difficulty swallowing (not related to seasonal allergies, acid reflux, post nasal drip).) 

  • Runny or stuffy/congested nose (Not related to seasonal allergies, being outside in cold weather, chronic sinusitis unchanged from baseline.) 

  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye) (Not related to blepharitis, recurrent styes.) 

  • Decreased or lack of appetite (Not related to anxiety, constipation.) 

  • Abdominal pain (Persistent or ongoing (not related to menstrual cramps, gastroesophageal reflux disease) 

  • Headache (New and persistent, unusual, unexplained, or long-lasting (not related to tension-type headaches, chronic migraines, receiving a COVID-19 vaccine in the last 48 hours).

Note: Fully vaccinated means that it has been at least 14 days since you received:​

  • the full series of a COVID-19 vaccine authorized by Health Canada (e.g., 2 doses of Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca/COVIDSHIELD, OR 1 dose of Janssen [Johnson & Johnson]) or any combination of such vaccines, OR​
  • one or two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine not authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Sinopharm) followed by one dose of a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) OR​
  • three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine not authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Abdala).​

Variants of Concern

What is a ‘Variant of Concern (VOC),’ and what does it mean for me and my family?

Variants are viruses that have changed or mutated. Multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been found around the world. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have set criteria to classify variants of the virus that causes COVID-19. A variant becomes a Variant of Concern (VOC) when its changes affect one or more of the following factors: 

  • Spreads more easily and quickly than other strains of COVID-19 

  • Causes more severe illness 

  • Doesn’t respond to diagnostic tests, treatment, or vaccines in the same way as the original strain 

The public health measures that have worked for COVID-19 to date will work with new variants. We must continue to: 

  • Use masks 

  • Stay two metres apart 

  • Wash our hands 

In settings outside the home, public health measures are in place to reduce the risk of virus transmission. These measures reduce, but do not eliminate the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Your personal use of a mask, keeping two metres apart, and not touching your face or mask with unwashed hands is very important in these settings. 

The symptoms of illness caused by a Variant of Concern are the same as those listed for COVID-19. It is still a COVID-19 infection, but with a different strain. 

OPH is continuing to use provincial guidance to help ensure public health practices are in place that work to control COVID-19 transmission. The public health measures that are in place to reduce transmission of non-VOC COVID-19 are expected to work equally well in reducing VOC transmission. Though additional measures are not necessary for VOCs, it remains important for basic public health measures to be used consistently and appropriately in order to reduce transmission of both VOC and non-VOC COVID-19. 

What happens when a Variant of Concern (VOC) is identified in a school or childcare setting? 

When someone is diagnosed positive for a VOC in a school or childcare setting, families will be notified with the same letter used to notify families of non-VOC cases of COVID-19. 

OPH works with every person who tests positive to determine if others in the school or childcare have been exposed. OPH also determines if transmission has occurred within the school or child-care setting. OPH contacts high-risk contacts and gives them instructions on isolation and testing. 

If it is believed that transmission of COVID-19 has occurred in a school or childcare setting, outbreak measures will be implemented as they are for non-VOC COVID-19 transmissions. Each situation will be investigated and OPH will work closely with the setting. 

Contacts

What does being a “high risk contact” mean?

Please visit the COVID-19 High-risk contacts page to learn what a high-risk contact is defined as.

In some situations, OPH may determine that someone is a high-risk contact based on information provided by the individual who tested positive. OPH may also determine this based on information received from the setting where the exposure took place, such as schools, day cares or workplaces. OPH reviews the individual’s symptoms, where they have been, and who they interacted with.

Do close contacts (i.e., members of the same household) of a student, child or staff, who has been identified by OPH as a close contact of an individual who tested positive for COVID-19, need to self-isolate or be tested?

If the high-risk contact does NOT have any symptoms, household members of the high-risk contact who are not fully vaccinated can only leave the home for essential reasons for the duration of the high-risk contact’s self-isolation period. Essential reasons include: attending work/school/child care and essential errands such as groceries, attending medical appointments or picking up prescriptions.

If the high-risk contact has symptoms, household members of the high-risk contact who are not fully vaccinated are required to self-isolate until the child/staff test results are received. If the result is negative, the unvaccinated household contacts can end their self-isolation but may only leave the home for essential reasons for the duration of the high-risk contact’s isolation.

*If there are household contacts that are fully vaccinated, and they do not have any COVID-19 symptoms, they do not need to isolate while waiting for the symptomatic child’s test results.

Note: Fully vaccinated means that it has been at least 14 days since you received:​

  • the full series of a COVID-19 vaccine authorized by Health Canada (e.g., 2 doses of Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca/COVIDSHIELD, OR 1 dose of Janssen [Johnson & Johnson]) or any combination of such vaccines, OR​
  • one or two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine not authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Sinopharm) followed by one dose of a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) OR​
  • three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine not authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Abdala).​

If you do not have any symptoms of COVID-19 and were fully vaccinated at the time of your high-risk exposure to someone with COVID-19, you do not need to self-isolate at home or in the community. However, there are some exceptions

If household members become symptomatic, they are required to isolate and seek testing.

My child was tested for COVID-19 because they were identified as a “high-risk contact”, what do I do now?

Refer to the high-risk contact page for more information. 

If your child is not fully vaccinated:

If your child has no symptoms but was tested for COVID-19 because they were identified as a high-risk contact of someone who tested positive for COVID-19, your child would need to self-isolate and monitor for symptoms for 10 days. Siblings and other members within the same household of a high-risk contact who has no symptoms awaiting test results may return to school, work or child care; however, they should limit their activities to just essential reasons for the duration of the high-risk contact’s self-isolation period. Essential reasons include: attending work/school/child care and essential errands such as groceries, attending medical appointments or picking up prescriptions.

If your child tests positive for COVID-19, all your child’s household contacts* will have to self-isolate and will require close follow-up by Ottawa Public Health. Further guidance will be provided for testing, self-monitoring and self-isolation.

If your child tests negative for COVID-19 your child would still need to self-isolate and monitor for symptoms for 10 days.

Regardless of the test result, if your child is identified as a high-risk contact of someone who tested positive for COVID-19 and has no symptoms your child must self-isolate for 10 days.

If your child is fully vaccinated:

If your child does not have any symptoms of COVID-19 and were fully vaccinated at the time of their high-risk exposure to someone with COVID-19, they do not need to self-isolate at home or in the community. However, there are some exceptions

Your child should be tested on or after day 7 following their exposure to someone with COVID-19 and should monitor for symptoms for 10 days.

*If there are household contacts that are fully vaccinated, and they do not have any COVID-19 symptoms, they do not need to isolate while waiting for the child’s test results.

Note: Fully vaccinated means that it has been at least 14 days since you received:​

  • the full series of a COVID-19 vaccine authorized by Health Canada (e.g., 2 doses of Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca/COVIDSHIELD, OR 1 dose of Janssen [Johnson & Johnson]) or any combination of such vaccines, OR​
  • one or two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine not authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Sinopharm) followed by one dose of a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) OR​
  • three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine not authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Abdala).​

I received notice that my child was exposed to COVID-19 on a school bus, but they did not take the school bus that day. What should I do? 

If you received notice that your child is a high-risk contact but know your child did not attend school or take the bus on that day, please contact your child’s school. 

OPH works with the school and bus company to collect cohort (groups of students) information for students who have tested positive for COVID-19 and their high-risk contacts. This information is based on school attendance. OPH may also be aware of information that you are not, which includes when your child may have been exposed to COVID-19.  

Bus attendance lists are not live, meaning, if your child doesn’t take the bus on a certain day, the school and OPH will not know. Bus lists include all students who take that bus but do not include which days a student takes the bus.  

If you received notice that your child is a high-risk contact but know your child did not take the bus on the day contact occurred, please call the school and notify them. If the investigation shows that your child was in contact with an individual who tested positive for COVID-19 somewhere else, your child may still be considered a high-risk contact.

My child has been identified as a high-risk contact. Why is their isolation period being extended? 

If your child does not have any symptoms of COVID-19 and was fully vaccinated* at the time of the high-risk exposure to someone with COVID-19, they do not need to self-isolate at home or in the community. However, there are some exceptions. If your child was identified as a high-risk contact as part of an outbreak, your child may be required to isolate, despite being fully vaccinated. OPH will provide you with instructions as part of case and contact management. 

Note: Fully vaccinated means that it has been at least 14 days since you received:​

  • the full series of a COVID-19 vaccine authorized by Health Canada (e.g., 2 doses of Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca/COVIDSHIELD, OR 1 dose of Janssen [Johnson & Johnson]) or any combination of such vaccines, OR​
  • one or two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine not authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Sinopharm) followed by one dose of a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) OR​
  • three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine not authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Abdala).​

If the child or household members become symptomatic, they are required to isolate and seek testing.

For students who are not vaccinated:

When a student is identified as a high-risk contact, they are required to isolate for 10 days following contact with an individual who tested positive for COVID-19. It is possible that some people will be asked to isolate for longer depending on their situation

The following situations are examples of when an isolation period may be extended past the standard 10-days   

  • Exposure to other individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19. For example, if after investigating it is discovered that a student had an initial exposure in the classroom and then another exposure in a different setting, such as the bus or sports practice, the isolation period would be extended to reflect the most recent exposure.  
  • Extension of a class or cohort (grouping of students) closure following an outbreak investigation. If an outbreak is declared in a class or cohort and the timeline for the class or cohort closure is extended after further investigation, the isolation period for a child in that class or cohort would also be extended. 
  • The student becomes symptomatic and goes for testing. The isolation date may need to be extended while waiting for a test result 
  • A positive test result: If a child who was initially identified as a high-risk contact tests positive for COVID-19, their new isolation period would begin on the day of symptom onset or if the child has no symptoms, the day a positive test result is received.  
  • Severe COVID-19 illness or immunocompromised: If a child is suffering from severe COVID-19 illness or is severely immunocompromised, the self- isolation period would extend to 20 days. 

Note: because the incubation period for COVID-19 can be up to 10 days, a negative test result does not end your isolation period early. Please stay in isolation at home until discharged by OPH. 

My child has been isolating because they were identified as a high-risk contact of a person who tested positive for COVID-19. When can my child return to school/child care?

In most cases, a high-risk contact can return to school or childcare after their isolation period ends. Parents will receive an automated message from their school or childcare setting saying when their child can return. For more information please visit OPH’s self-isolation page.  

My child has been identified as a high-risk contact and I share custody of them with their other parent/guardian. Can my child come to my home during my agreed upon time if they are isolating with another parent?  

When possible, high-risk contacts that are required to self-isolate, should self-isolate in one household for the duration of their self-isolation period. High-risk contacts and anyone who tests positive for COVID-19, are to self-isolate and not leave the home in which isolation began. If the child moves locations while self-isolating, there is an increased risk of exposing the other parent/household members to the virus.

Why does OPH only notify one of the parents when the parents are not living together? 

OPH gathers contact information for communications from your child's school. Please ensure your school has the most up-to-date contact information, including for all legal guardians who that would like to receive notifications and communications from OPH. 

Outbreak

What is considered an outbreak in a school or child care setting?
An outbreak would be declared in a school or childcare setting once it has been determined that there are two positive cases with an epidemiological link (e.g. these children could have become infected with COVID-19 at school either from each other or a common source). Each case will need to be assessed and it would need to be determined that transmission occurred in the school before confirming it as an outbreak since it is possible that children could have been infected outside the school or childcare setting. 
What happens when there is an outbreak in a school or child care setting?

Once an outbreak in a school or childcare setting is confirmed, OPH would reach out to parents of high-risk contacts to let them know and help them with the next steps which include staying home, monitoring for symptoms and present for testing when it’s appropriate. OPH would continue to investigate to determine any other high-risk contacts and monitor the situation until an outbreak can be declared over, including if a class or group and or the entire school or childcare setting would need to be closed.

OPH assesses the vaccination status of staff and students who are considered high risk contacts of a positive case. Despite changes to self-isolation rules for fully vaccinated people, staff and children may still be required to isolate as part of an outbreak. Please follow the direction of OPH in each specific case. 

Are schools and child care allowed to remain open while in outbreak?
Yes, it is possible for a school or childcare setting to remain open during an outbreak. The ability for the school or child care setting to remain open will depend on how many cohorts (groups of students) are affected. This decision will be made in consultation with the school or child care setting, school board and OPH.
When an outbreak is declared in a school or child care setting, an investigation will take place to determine which cohorts are affected and parents will be notified of next steps. Some cohorts may need to be in self-isolation at home until a date determined by OPH.
When does OPH contact others impacted at the school or child care about the outbreak?

Upon learning that someone has tested positive for COVID-19, OPH will contact the school or childcare setting to send an initial letter to the entire school and/or childcare population to:

  • Advise them that someone in the school or childcare setting has tested positive for COVID-19
  • Inform them that an investigation has started
  • Explain that OPH will be in touch with high-risk contacts

After OPH conducts its investigation and has determined who are high-risk contacts, they will reach out to families directly by emails, phone messages, and/or text messages.

When an outbreak is declared at a school or child care setting, are all students and staff members considered potential contacts?
No. Each situation will be different. An OPH investigation will take place to determine which cohorts (groups of children or students) are affected in the school or child care setting. OPH will also determine if a student had contact with other children or staff members during transportation to/from the school or in Extended Day Programs (EDP) at the school.

Masks

How can I encourage my child to wear a mask? 

Encourage your child to wear a mask by doing the following:

  • Explain why
    • Children watch, listen and learn. Explaining the importance of mask wearing in simple terms can help them understand why wearing a mask is important. Allow them to ask questions and express their feelings. You may want to start by reading how to help children cope with stressful public events to give you some guidance.
  • Give choices
    • Consider letting children of all ages choose their mask pattern and/or colour. Kids like to feel independent and be given choices. If you are able, include your child in selecting a mask of their choice.
  • Include masks in imaginative play
    • Children have amazing imaginations. Include a few masks in their playtime and see what they come up with. Having masks present in their environment will help them become more comfortable to the look and feel of masks.
  • Set an example
    • When heading out in public be a role model. Show your children how you put on your mask and explain why you are doing it – to protect those around you. 

For more info visit: Kids and masks: Tips from an expert

How can I safely label my child’s mask for school? (cloth, non-medial masks)

OPH recommends:

  • Adding a small label or written name (in permanent marker) at the very edge of the mask
  • Iron-on labels or written name (in permanent marker) is preferred over sewing labels into the mask. Sewing stitches into a mask may alter the effectiveness of the mask.

Masks should continue to fit securely and cover the nose, mouth and surrounding face without gapping. Cloth masks should be washed the end of each day, after it is worn at school or child care

We recommend against putting a label near the middle of the mask as this can affect how well the mask will filter. Please note, it is unknown how labeling may affect how well the mask works.

Where should my child put their mask when they take it off to eat or drink?

Your child should store their cloth or disposable mask in a clean closeable bag or plastic container until ready to use again the same day provided the mask is not damaged, damp or dirty. Your child should take the following steps to properly store their mask:

  • Ensure it is safe to remove the mask (i.e., maintain physical distance of two metres (six feet) from others)
  • Perform hand hygiene (i.e. clean hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer) before and after taking off the mask
  • Remove the mask from his/her face using the ties or ear loops and avoid touching the cloth portion of the mask
  • Fold it in half, so that the outer surface is inwards (so that the contaminated outer surface is not contacting anything during storage)
  • Place it in a clean, closeable bag or plastic container until ready to use it again the same day and
  • Teach children not to leave a mask that has absorbed moisture from their breath in a non-breathable bag or container for more than an hour or so

Parents and guardians should practice this with young children before school/child care starts so that children can safely remove their mask and put it away properly until ready to use again. (Students should be sent to school/child care with a closable bag or plastic container that is labelled with their name.)

Can lanyards be used to store masks, while they are not in use?

No. To prevent masks from becoming contaminated when not in use, the mask should be stored in a clean, closable bag or plastic container until ready to use again that same day.

OPH does not recommend the use of lanyards as the mask’s inside surface may be exposed to contaminated respiratory droplets as the mask hangs by the lanyard from the neck.

Can my child wear their mask all day?
  • Yes. Both cloth and disposable masks can be worn all day, for one day, as long as they do not become damaged, damp or dirty. It is important to properly store both cloth and disposable masks to prevent contamination when not being worn.
  • At the end of a full day’s wear or if the disposable mask has become damp, dirty or damaged, it is best to throw it out. Prolonged or repeated daily use of the same disposable mask may not provide enough protection even it if looks clean and not damaged.
  • Discard used disposable masks in a garbage bin lined with a plastic bag.

Children should be shown how to properly take care of their masks. Here are some things parents and caregivers can teach them:

  • How to remove their mask using the ties or ear loops when they are safely able to do so
  • How to wash their hands using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before and after removing their mask
  • How to properly store masks
  • How to avoid touching the cloth or fabric portion of their masks while placing it in a clean, closeable bag or plastic container until ready to use it again the same day
  • Teach children not to share masks
What if my child loses their mask or doesn’t have one for school? 

Students should speak to school staff to get a mask if they do not have one; forgot it at home, lost it or it became dirty, damaged or damp on the way to school. 

Parents should try to ensure their child is provided with two to three clean masks each day. 

Students grades one to 12 will be required to wear a mask when indoors, and, at this time, OPH strongly recommends that students in kindergarten wear masks when indoors.

Can my child use a face shield instead of a mask?

No. A face shield is not a substitute for wearing a face mask, as it does not filter respiratory (breathing and talking) droplets. 

A face shield may provide some protection from the droplets from another person; however, these droplets may still be breathed in around the shield. As well, droplets from the person wearing the shield may escape around the sides of the face shield, which provides less protection to others. If you choose to wear a face shield, we recommend wearing it with a properly fitted mask. It could be considered a better option than no mask, but it is not a replacement for a mask.

For more information about masks please visit our mask page.

Should children and teachers wear a mask in outdoor settings?

Masking is no longer required outdoors; however, it is still recommended.   

Children, teachers and child care staff should wear a mask in outdoor settings whenever a physical distance of two or more metres cannot be maintained. This school year, there is more of a chance that your child will come into contact with other cohorts outdoors. 

Current evidence tells us that the risk of transmission of the COVID-19 virus in outdoor settings is much lower than in indoor settings. Physical distancing is easier to maintain and there is much greater air circulation when outdoors. This reduced risk is because people are less likely to be exposed to infectious respiratory droplets (from coughing, sneezing, shouting, singing, talking, breathing). 

Although outdoor settings may reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, the risk is not eliminated. Masks help to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in outdoor settings where physical distancing may be difficult to maintain (such as at a bus stop). 

Please refer to your school board or child care providers plans regarding other mask wearing details at school. 

General

What information is available on school take-home test kits?

Ottawa Public Health (OPH), along with our partners at CHEO, is offering free take-home COVID-19 testing kits for students and staff at some schools. These kits are offered to students and staff who develop symptoms of COVID-19 or are identified as a high-risk contact. The take-home test kits include a combined mouth and nose swab that a child or adult can do themselves, or that can be done by a parent/guardian or caregiver. 

Take home testing kits are not being provided to all schools at this time.  

OPH, worked with CHEO using an ethical framework to prioritize and distribute testing kits to certain schools in Ottawa. This decision was based on evidence and local data that show the areas in Ottawa where people may be at higher risk and where there are a greater number of COVID cases, contacts and transmission. 

These kits will be provided using a phased approached with the goal of expanding to all schools throughout the fall. You will receive more information from OPH and or your school, when the program is available at your child(ren)’s school. 

Is it safe for my child to take the school bus/van?

The back-to-school bussing plans - outlined by your local transportation company and directed by the Ministry of Education - include measures such as extra cleaning and disinfecting, personal protective equipment for students and drivers and assigned seating.

The priority for transportation services is to create an environment where students can feel safe and prevent the transmission of the virus as much as possible. If your child is returning to school/child care, take some time to consider the best transportation option for your child. Active forms of travel (for example, walking and cycling) and private transportation by parents and caregivers are encouraged where possible to ease pressure on transportation demand.

Please refer to your school board, child care provider and transportation company for what your child requires in order to safely attend school/child care and travel between home and school/child care.

Should children change their clothes when they get home?

No. Students returning from school/child care do not need to change their clothing when they get home. When students come home, it is recommended that they wash their hands with soap and water.

What should students and staff do upon arriving home from school/child care?
  • Wash their hands. Hand hygiene is one of the most important things we can do to limit the transmission of COVID-19. When students and/or staff come home, it is recommended that they wash their hands with soap and water.
  • Cloth (non-medical) masks should be washed daily.
  • Disposable masks should be discarded in a lined garbage bin.
  • Items taken daily to school/child care such as water bottles, mugs and lunch containers, should also be washed.

Now that my child is wearing hats, mitts and other cold weather items to and from school or child care, what is the best way to take care of these items, and limit the transmission of COVID-19? 

If your child were sick and tested positive for COVID-19, then the items should be washed according to their labels using hot water or disinfectants suitable for the material. Also, disinfect the laundry containers (laundry basket, or bag) that held any items worn during the time your child was in isolation.

To limit the spread of COVID-19, and other viruses, it is important to continue to wash hands regularly, as it is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19. Also, remind children not to touch their eyes, nose, mouth or mask with unwashed hands. Hands should be washed with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based rub, after coming in from outside and removing outdoor items. 

If my family is self-isolating at home, can we visit parks and playgrounds? 

No. If your household is isolating, you cannot leave your place of isolation, even if there are members of the household that do not have symptoms. The only exception is to get medical care. Do not leave to go for a walk or to the playground, etc. Stay in a private place like your yard or balcony if you go outside for fresh air. For more information visit the OPH webpage on self-isolation instructions.   

For household members that are fully vaccinated, they are not required to self-isolate while waiting for a symptomatic person’s COVID-19 test result, or if they are identified as a high risk contact of a positive case. There are some exceptions 

You may consider yourself ‘fully vaccinated’ when it has been 14 days after receiving: 

  • Your second dose of an accepted two-dose COVID-19 vaccine or a combination of accepted vaccines (i.e. Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTEch, AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD); or 

  • Your only dose of the single-dose COVID-19 vaccine series of Janssen (Johnson & Johnson); or 

  • A complete COVID-19 vaccine series that is listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO). 

If the child or household members become symptomatic, they are required to isolate and seek testing. 

Should my family be limiting the number of contacts that we have during the COVID-19 pandemic? 

Yes. If possible, families should limit their contacts, particularly if they have not been fully vaccinated.   

COVID-19 vaccines do add an extra layer of protection from infection. However, public health measures are still important to limit the spread of infection. If gathering with others outside your household be mindful of the risks involved. 

See the Public Health Agency of Canada’s document on Vaccinated Against COVID-19? What does it mean to me? which has recommendations for gathering indoors and outdoors, based on vaccination status.  

To reduce the transmission of COVID-19 in our community, it is important to BeSocialWise. This includes wearing a mask, isolating when you have symptoms, staying a distance of at least two metres (six feet) from those outside of your household and exercising proper hand hygiene. 

Are children less susceptible than adults to COVID-19? 

No, children are not less susceptible to COVID-19 than adults, but generally experience less severe illness.   

Transmission of COVID-19 in children is not fully understood and the universal precautions of physical distancing, hand hygiene and masking need to be maintained.  

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Information for parents and students

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) has developed recommendations for additional COVID-19 protective measures for school settings for the 2021-2022 return to school. 

Here are some important key messages for parents and guardians to review with their child before schools starts:

  • Stay at home when you are sick, even when symptoms are mild. This applies if you are fully vaccinated. Staying home helps prevent transmitting an illness to others.
  • Ensure that personal belongings and food are not shared with students and staff.
  • Practise ‘no touch’ greetings with your friends and teachers at school. Let’s share a wave and not our germs.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your upper arm, not your hands! Throw the tissue away and wash your hands right away.
  • If you don’t feel well, tell someone.
  • Avoid touching your face. We can easily spread germs from our hands to our mask or face.
  • Bring your own water bottle from home to stay hydrated throughout the day.
  • When not wearing a mask, physical distancing is especially important to keep you and the friends around you healthy.
  • Reach out for help if you need it. It’s ok not to be ok. Check out some of our Mental wellness supports.
  • Make sure your immunizations are all up to date.
Packing healthy and safe lunches – what’s new during COVID-19? 

Packing healthy and safe food and snacks is an important part of return to school planning for your child. Children who eat well can focus longer and are ready to learn at school and eating well and staying hydrated is important to help fight off illness.

Here are some things to keep in mind if your child is returning to classroom learning:

At home:

  • Wash hands before and after preparing and handling food.
  • Wash and disinfect surfaces before and after preparing and packing food.
  • Use an insulated bag with a freezer pack or thermos to keep food cool. Chill milk or freeze drinking water to help keep food cool.
  • Pack food choices that are ready to eat and do not need to be reheated.
  • Check with your school if you should avoid packing peanut butter or foods containing peanuts in your child's lunch.
  • Use a wide mouth thermos to keep hot food hot. Pre-heat thermos with hot water before filling.
  • Wash all vegetables and fruit under cool, running water before use.
  • Pack food that your child can eat without the help from others.
  • If using a reusable lunch bag or container, make sure to wash them daily with hot, soapy water.
  • Label containers, bottles, lunch bags and reusable utensils with your child’s name.
  • Do not reuse plastic bags – they can hold bacteria.

At school:

  • Each Student should bring a full reusable water bottle labelled with their name that can be refilled throughout the day.
  • Secondary students are permitted to eat off-campus.
  • Use of shared microwaves/kitchen space is now permitted.
  • Nutrition/third party food programs and non-instructional food events (such as a pizza day) are permitted to operate.

Help your child understand they will need to:

  • Wash their hands before and after eating.
  • Remain at their own desk while eating.
  • Safely remove their mask and store it in a clean bag until ready to reuse.
  • Avoid placing food directly on their desk. Instead use an open lunch bag or place food on a clean surface such as a paper towel/cloth napkin.
  • Keep food, drinks, straws, containers or utensils to themselves (no sharing).

Healthy eating tips:

  • Use the Eat Well Plate to help build meals that follow Canada’s Food Guide.
  • Choose whole grains, vegetables and fruit and protein foods.
  • Include vegetables or fruit for every meal and snack.
  • Plan and prepare snacks and meals ahead of time to help limit use of processed foods that are high in sugar, sodium and saturated fat.
  • Choose water as the drink of choice.
  • Involve your kids with choosing and preparing food.

Helpful links:

Outdoor learning

This year, the return to school may mean your child is spending more time outside, as some classes are making their way to the school yard for learning. There are things we need to think about to make sure everyone is prepared for safe outdoor learning.  

For example: 

  • The weather: sun safety, cold weather, rain and snow 

  • The risk for tick and mosquito bites 

  • Safe play  

  • Mask use if physical distancing is difficult  

Visit our Parenting in Ottawa pages for child Safety and youth safety considerations including, sun safety, staying safe during hot weather, winter safety, protecting your family from mosquito and tick bites, walking and cycling safety as well as playground safety.  

To learn some more about nature, you can visit the City of Ottawa’s learning about nature page. 

Check with your child’s teacher or school for more about what needs to be sent to school with your child to be prepared for outdoor learning.  

Ensuring a safe return to school means we all have to be social wise to protect ourselves and others from the transmission of COVID-19. If we all take precautions at home and in the community, we have fewer opportunities for the virus to be present in our schools. Here are some important things we need to do to reduce the transmission and take care of our health:

Hand hygiene

Hand hygiene is one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of germs. Children need to be taught when and how to wash their hands properly. It is important for everyone to wash their hands often with soap and water or use hand sanitizer. Hand hygiene will be done regularly throughout the school day and will be part of the daily schedule.

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Masks

Wearing a cloth (non-medical) mask indoors helps to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 and helps protect the people around you. When you wear a mask, you are helping to protect other people. When other people wear a mask, they are helping to protect you. Students in Kindergarten to grade 12 are required to wear a mask in indoor spaces and on school vehicles (bus). Please refer to your specific school board regarding mask requirements. New this year, masks are not required outdoors, Students should still practice physical distancing when outside. OPH recommends masking when indoors and outdoors when physical distancing cannot be maintained.

Masking is recommended for the following activities, and physical distancing should be maintained between individuals:

  • Outdoors
  • Low-contact physical activity
  • Singing

Physical distancing

Physical distancing involves taking steps to limit the number of people outside your social circle and household that you interact with and ensuring that whenever possible the people you interact with remain more than two metres (six feet) away. This will help to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Physical distancing helps limit the transmission of the virus when used with the other public health measures such as hand washing, wearing a mask and staying home when sick. Please refer to your school board’s reopening plan for physical distancing considerations at your school.

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School reopening plans

COVID-19: Health, safety and operational guidance for schools (2021-2022)

Please refer to your school board for their school reopening plans.

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Mental wellness supports

Take care of yourself. It’s ok to not be ok. Please know that help is available and we encourage you to reach out for support when you need it.

Mental health resources for school staff

Mental health and substance use services and resources

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Resources for school staff

Ottawa Public Health:

  • COVID-19 screening tool for schools/child care - Hard Copy (pdf - 175 KB) (This document is currently not in an accessible format. An accessible document will be posted shortly), available in Arabic (pdf - 361 KB)
    • This tool is meant to be shared with households who do not have access to a web version and need a hard copy in order to complete COVID-19 screening. This tool does not replace the electronic tool on the web page.
    • Schools and or child care centres may print this tool and share with households who need it.

Posters:

School Mental Health Ontario

How to wear a mask at school

It is important to wash/sanitize your hands before putting on your mask, before removing your mask and after removing your mask.

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Other resources:

Organization Resources

Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS)

Caring for kids
Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO)
CHU Sainte-Justine
Government of Canada
Government of Ontario
Healthy Literacy Project
Kids Come First Health Team
Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies
Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child & Youth Mental Health
Ottawa Public Health
Ottawa Public Library
Public Health Ontario
Reaching In...Reaching Out
School Mental Health Ontario
The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids)

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Contact Information

Provincial Vaccine Information Line

  • 7 days a week, from 8 am to 8 pm
  • Call if you have questions about Ontario's COVID-19 vaccination program.
  • Service is available in multiple languages.
  • Telephone: 1-888-999-6488
  • TTY: 1-866-797-0007

Ottawa Public Health COVID-19 Telephone Line

  • Monday to Friday, from 8 am to 4:30 pm
  • Translation is available in multiple languages
  • Telephone: 613-580-6744 follow the prompts to the COVID-19 telephone line
  • TTY: 613-580-9656

Emergency Services

  • If you are in distress (e.g., significant trouble breathing, chest pain, fainting or have a significant worsening of any chronic disease symptoms), do not go to the Assessment Centre or a COVID-19 Care clinic. Go to the nearest Emergency Department or call 9-1-1.

See someone not respecting COVID-19 rules?

How to access help during COVID-19

  • 211 Ontario can help you find financial and social support during COVID-19
  • Telephone: 2-1-1

Related Information

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