There’s a new COVID-19 daily symptom screening tool for students and school staff in the NWT.
The N.J. Macpherson COVID-19 outbreak in Yellowknife revealed opportunities for enhanced screening for coronavirus, chief public health officer Dr. Kami Kandola said Friday.
That outbreak had spread to infect 71 individuals as of May 21, with nine active cases and 62 recovered cases.
The new tool is somewhat stricter than the screening tool released in August of 2020 before schools reopened for the year, according to a news release from the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer (OCPHO).
It is aimed at preventing further outbreaks and monitoring conditions in NWT schools for the rest of the school year.
Like the tool of last summer, the new one encourages students and staff with COVID-19 symptoms to stay home and follow up with health care providers if needed.
The first step asks if people have travelled outside of the NWT, or had close contact with anyone who has travelled outside of the NWT in the past 14 days; or if they have had close contact with anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 14 days.
If the answer is “yes” to one or both questions, the child should be kept at home and public health should be contacted for next steps.
If the answer is “no” parents can move to the second step.
This step lists 15 colour-coded symptoms that parents should watch for in their children, while the tool of last summer listed 11 symptoms.
If the child has one or more symptoms they should stay at home, isolate and “keep a distance from others in the home and limit use to only one bathroom in the home if possible,” the tool says.
If the child has the most severe, or “red” symptoms such as shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, parents should call 911.
If one of the “yellow” symptoms of fever, new or worsening cough or loss of sense of smell or taste are identified, parents should contact Yellowknife Primary Care or a health centre (if outside of Yellowknife) for an assessment by a practitioner.
The same guidance applies if two or more of the “green” symptoms are identified: generally feeling unwell, chills, muscle aches, fatigue or weakness, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, headache; diarrhea, nausea or vomiting; loss of appetite, abdominal pain or skin changes or rash.
If the child has only one of the “green” symptoms then parents should arrange for COVID-19 testing at the Yellowknife testing centre or through a health centre outside of Yellowknife.
Other household members with similar symptoms should also seek assessment from a health care provider.
The child can go to school if there are none of those symptoms.
Booking for testing is available online.
“If children have frequent or recurrent symptoms of COVID-19 due to another health condition, their health care provider will provide guidance on what to do,” the release said.
While the child waits for assessment by a health care provider, they should stay home and away from extra curricular activities. They should also continue to keep their distance from others at home if possible and wash their hands often, wear a facial covering if they need to be close to other family members or if they need to seek medical care.
After the child is assessed by a health care provider they will receive instructions about when they can return to school. That will include an assessment card indicating the child can safely go back to school. No private health information will be on the card.
Children or staff with chronic symptoms like seasonal allergies will receive specific guidance on whether re-testing is needed.
To expedite processes under the new tool, the Northwest Territories Health and Social Service Authority (NTHSSA) has added a new option for Yellowknife online booking with a limited number return-to-school reserved testing appointments and health care providers have been made aware of the process for assessments of chronic conditions.
“Keeping children with coughs and colds home from school remains important. If a child has a cold or other illness, being at school could spread this illness to other students. Keeping children at home if they have symptoms of COVID-19 will provide reassurance and make schools safer for the remainder of the school year,” the release said.