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Back-To-School COVID-19 FAQs

Back-To-School COVID-19 FAQs - By Felicia

Can kids still see their grandparents?

The answer, most experts say, is "Yes." On the other hand, Dr. Dina Kulik, a pediatrician and founder and director of Kidcrew Pediatrics, said that once the impact of school reopening on transmission of the disease caused by the coronavirus is clear, the most conservative thing would be to maintain your distance from people that are at risk (that includes seniors over 60).

Sometimes families rely on grandparents for pickups and child care. In those cases, Kulik recommended that when caring for the children, grandparents wear a mask, maintain distance as much as possible, wash everyone's hands with soap or sanitizer and avoid bringing them inside the home if possible.

What happens if my kid gets symptoms?

Parents and teachers know that back-to-school typically means back to sniffles and sick days, but I’m pretty sure our readers want to know more about the protocols should kids get sick — or worse, test positive.

Federal guidelines recommend that students, staff or volunteers not be allowed in the school or to board the school bus if:

They have symptoms of COVID-19.

They have had exposure to someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days.

That means if a child tests positive, siblings need to self-isolate. And if another household member tests positive, a child needs to be removed from school, even if he or she is asymptomatic. This has already happened in at least some school districts that have returned to school. Students may also have to self-isolate if someone in their class tests positive.

Why can't we just test everyone before going back to school?

In addition to getting some new clothes, new school supplies and some face masks, you might be wondering if parents should have their kids tested before returning to school.

Kulik doesn't recommend testing kids before school starts, noting that false negatives are very common for COVID-19 tests, especially in people without symptoms.

Where is a student more likely to be exposed?

We know that taking activities outdoors and avoiding dense crowds can help reduce the spread of coronavirus.

But a lot of you might be wondering which school situation would be riskier: a hallway crammed with hundreds of mask-wearing students or a few dozen kids not wearing masks in class?

The answer is: it depends.

So, then why don't all children have to wear a mask in class? What about face shields?

Some provinces are requiring children above a certain grade to wear masks at all times, some require them only in common areas, such as hallways, and some don't require them at all. Ontario "encourages" masks even when they're not required, and Alberta recommends staff ask younger students who are able to tolerate masks to wear them when possible.

Is it too risky to take the school bus?

"It's a family decision," said Kulik, who has four children, and, like many Canadians, doesn't have the opportunity to work from home.

Most back-to-school bus plans across the country include measures such as extra cleaning and disinfecting, personal protective equipment for students and drivers and assigned seating.

British Columbia says each student should have their own seat "unless sharing with a member of their household." While Quebec recommends a maximum of two students per bench.

Should kids and teachers change their clothes when they get home?

I know I will, because even without COVID-19, I do this. But it’s up to you to decide what you do.

Doctors and nurses strip off their scrubs before coming home from the hospital, but readers might wonder whether kids and teachers should do the same thing after school.

"Your best bet would be to change [your clothes] on your arrival home," said Kulik. "And maybe shower, but for sure, wash your hands very diligently."

How effective are masks at keeping schools safe from COVID?

Masks are an important piece of the picture, but infectious disease experts warn they're not enough on their own to manage outbreaks. We would never want to rely on them over the other measures, like reducing contact numbers, increasing physical distance, washing your hands a lot and having good ventilation in the space.

What we're learning with COVID-19 now is that you might actually have individual protection from those around you as well if you wear a mask in public. We didn't have that information in the earlier parts of the pandemic. But now we're seeing, as we put all the data together, that masks can be broadly helpful in reducing transmission from person to person outside of health-care settings and even just in the general community.

That said, different regions of Canada have made decisions on mask policy based on a number of factors, including the current level of transmission in the area. Elsewhere in the world, there are school systems that have used them and school systems that haven't, and they've both had successful stories.

Are face shields acceptable alternatives?

Compared to standard masks, not as much is known about how effective face shields are at preventing transmission of COVID-19.

Unfortunately, there isn't robust evidence in favour of using face shields on their own, without the use of a mask at the same time, she said. However, that could change.

There is some evidence that's under peer review that suggests that they may be as effective. And there are certain jurisdictions in the U.S. that have gone to recommending face shields universally without face masks for their health-care workers with no clear evidence of infection transmission.

How many masks should kids leave home with each day?

There's no absolute number of masks that's going to be right for each child every day. It really does depend on what a child is doing.

The way that we're wearing masks right now for sort of a general and broad public protection, you can wear your mask for a prolonged period of time. There actually isn't really an expiry in terms of how long you can wear your mask before you have to throw it out.

Some provinces say they will provide two masks per day for each student, while others have said they will provide masks for students who don't have them.

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