Outbreak Protocol FAQ
This document provides a summary of key information contained in the Government of Ontario COVID-19 19 guidance documents linked above.
For more further information regarding management of COVID-19 in Waterloo Region’s Catholic Schools – including information about curriculum, teaching and learning – please visit the school board’s current FAQ page.
Roles & Responsibilities
Q: What is the role of Region of Waterloo Public Health (ROWPH) in managing a COVID-19 outbreak in a WCDSB school?
A: The role of Region of Waterloo Public Health (ROWPH) in managing a COVID-19 outbreak in a WCDSB school is to:
- Determine if an outbreak exists and declare an outbreak.
- Provide guidance and recommendations to the school on outbreak control measures in conjunction with advice provided by the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health.
- Provide recommendations on cohort(s) isolation, and the potential need for full or partial school dismissal based on the scope of the outbreak.
- Make recommendations on who to test, in alignment with the province’s broader testing strategy; where recommended, facilitate a coordinated approach to testing, in collaboration with Ontario Health, including provision of an investigation or outbreak number.
- Issue orders by the medical officer of health or their designate under the Health Protection & Promotion Act (HPPA), if necessary.
- Declare the outbreak over, based on:
- at least 14 days from the last outbreak associated case (including in a student, staff, essential visitor, or anyone else in the school during the outbreak).
- no further symptomatic individuals with tests pending.
NOTE: An outbreak in a school is defined as two or more lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in students and/or staff in a school with an epidemiological link, within a 14-day period, where at least one case could have reasonably acquired their infection in the school (including transportation and before or after school care).
The outbreak does not necessarily need to be over to re-open the school. Cohorts without evidence of transmission can be gradually brought back to school as additional information and test results become available.
Q: What is the role of the Waterloo Catholic District School Board (WCDSB) in managing a COVID-19 outbreak in a WCDSB school?
A: The role of the Waterloo Catholic District School Board in managing a COVID-19 outbreak in a WCDSB school is to:
- Report a communicable disease to (ROWPH) as per Section 28 of the Health Protection & Promotion Act (HPPA).
- Maintain a COVID-19 Advisory section on the school board website and post information if there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 that involves a student or a staff member in a school setting (ensuring the protection of personal privacy at all times – posted information will not identify the student or staff member that has received a positive COVID-19 test).
- Maintain accurate records of staff and students’ attendance, for all common school locations attended by staff and students (e.g. school transportation, in-person attendance or work at a physical school location, before/after school programs located at a school, or other facilities shared with the school) for the last 30 days, as well as up to date contact information for staff and students. This information should be available to be accessed and shared with Region of Waterloo Public Health in a timely manner (within 24 hours) for investigations and communications. This includes:
- Facilitating access for ROWPH to staff lists for staff not directly employed by the school board (e.g., transportation staff, before/after school program staff).
- Keeping a log of all visitors (e.g., essential volunteers, contractors, parents/guardians, etc.) who enter the school, location(s) visited and dates/times of visit to facilitate contact follow-up if needed.
- In collaboration with ROWPH, communicate proactively with the school community about COVID-19 prevention measures and about how ill individuals, cases, and outbreaks will be handled.
- Provide training to school staff with respect to outbreak prevention and control measures, including infection prevention and control (IPAC) measures and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Management of Positive Case(s), Contacts & Outbreaks
Q: What happens if there is a confirmed diagnosis of a COVID-19 case in a school community?
A: The process for managing a confirmed diagnosis of a COVID-19 case in a school community is as follows:
- Any individual who tests positive for COVID-19 should not attend school until they are cleared by ROWPH or health care provider.
- Any individuals who test positive must remain in isolation for 14 days. Retesting is not recommended and will not alter this 14-day isolation requirement.
- Every individual who has tested positive for COVID-19 is contacted by ROWPH for further follow-up.
- ROWPH will notify the school of a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.
- Where ROWPH determines there was a transmission risk to others in the school, students and staff will be assessed to determine if they were at high risk of exposure (requiring isolation) or if they were at low risk of exposure (can self-monitor for symptoms and return to school).
- Classroom cohorts (students and staff affiliated with the cohort) will generally be considered at high risk of exposure.
- All students and staff determined to be at high risk of exposure will be directed to isolate and recommended to be tested (voluntary testing) within their isolation period.
- Negative test results do not change the requirement for isolation — nor do they shorten the isolation period for close contacts.
Regarding students in isolation, Teachers will:
- Ensure continuation of learning for the student.
- Continue to monitor students and themselves for symptoms.
Regarding students in isolation, Principals will:
- Communicate with school community as appropriate.
- Ensure student and sibling(s) portfolio information (that is, class list, seating charts, transportation details etc.) is up-to-date and share this information to PHU upon request.
- Ensure/coordinate environmental cleaning and/or disinfection of the space and items used by the individual(s).
- Monitor school population for new and additional illnesses and symptoms.
- Report absence in the daily absence tracking tool.
Regarding students in isolation, parents and the student should:
- Engage in continuation of learning if able.
- Communicate regularly with the school to inform daily routines.
- Follow advice by health provider and/or PHU on isolation protocol.
Q: What happens if someone in a school falls ill during the school day?
A: If an individual — including students, staff, contractors, visitors, parents, guardians — becomes ill while at school (including before and after school care affiliated with the school), it is recommended that:
- Anyone providing care to the ill individual should maintain as much physical distance as possible.
- The staff person caring for the individual should wear a surgical/procedural mask and eye protection.
- If tolerated, the ill individual should also wear a surgical/procedural mask.
- Hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette should be practiced while the ill individual is waiting to be picked up.
- Cleaning of the isolation room area and other areas of the school where the ill individual was should be conducted as soon as reasonably possible after the ill individual leaves.
- Advise the ill individual and/or their parent or guardian to have the ill individual seek medical advice, including the recommendation of testing for COVID-19 as appropriate or as advised by their medical provider. Ensure direction is aligned with screening and return to school direction.
- Initiate communication protocols and plans to update and inform necessary stakeholders within the school community while maintaining confidentiality of the ill individual.
- Regular school functions can continue unless directed otherwise by ROWPH.
Q: What happens if someone in a school is exposed to COVID-19 outside of the school setting?
A: Situations will arise where students, staff, or teachers may be exposed to COVID-19 outside of the school environment (for example, to family members that don’t attend the school, social contacts outside of school). Household members and others who live with the individual who has tested positive should isolate for 14 days. Schools will have necessary arrangements in place to support continuity of education for students who require isolation
Q: What happens if someone has been tested due to exhibiting COVID-19 symptom but is still awaiting test results?
A: While an individual suspected to have COVID-19 is waiting for test results they must be in isolation and cannot attend school in person. The individual can attend school virtually if they feel well enough to participate.
- Individuals who have had a COVID-19 test because of symptoms, but who test negative should not return to school until at least 24 hours after their symptoms have resolved.
- Where a student or staff member has tested positive for COVID-19, an ROWPH official will be in contact with the school to provide further direction on returning to school.
- If an ill individual does not have COVID-19 and instead has a known alternative diagnosis provided by a health care provider, return to school can occur when symptoms are resolved for at least 24 hours.
Q: What happens if a student with special education needs has needs that conflict with COVID-19 safety protocols?
A: If a student with special education needs has needs that conflict with COVID-19 safety protocols, the following guidelines will apply:
- Teachers will:
- Meet pro-actively (face to face or virtually) with parent/guardian and special education staff to anticipate and discuss possible changes to accommodations in the Individual Education Plan (IEP).
- Consider additional transition time to support smooth transitions.
- Principals will:
- Ensure coordination of staff and supports for student needs as necessary, for example, support staff and PPE.
- Ensure and coordinate environmental cleaning and/or disinfection of the space and items used by the individual(s).
- Support planning for possible online learning.
- Inform transportation of accommodations as needed.
- Inform special education superintendent or designate of accommodations as requested.
- Ensure continued access to assistive technology.
- Engage and support in updating the IEP as necessary.