North

What happens if my kid gets sick? In the N.W.T., it's up to your local clinic

Kids with COVID-19 symptoms won’t be allowed in N.W.T. schools, and they will need to prepare for extended stays at home.

School-aged kids with COVID-19 symptoms should be ready for extended stays at home, officials say

The sniffles are now a much bigger deal as parents are asked to be on the lookout for possible symptoms of COVID-19 — and keep their child home for a while if they spot them. (Brynn Anderson/Associated Press)

Your kid wakes up with a case of the sniffles and a croak in their throat. What next?

A runny nose and sore throat are examples of what N.W.T. schools are calling "minor symptoms" of COVID-19. If your kid has two of them, they've got to stay home.

But that's as far as many schools have gotten in their reopening plans. It's not immediately clear from those plans when your child would be able to return.

CBC News requested information from the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer (OCPHO) on what parents should expect if their child develops COVID-19 symptoms. Here's what they said.

Your local health centre may ask that your child be tested for COVID-19. If they receive a test, they'll need to wait for a negative result before returning to school. (LM Otero/The Associated Press)

Step 1: Keep your child at home

The first thing to do is isolate your kid. That means keeping them at home while they're symptomatic.

Most schools are asking parents to monitor kids for either one "major symptom" of COVID-19 — fever, shortness of breath, or a dry cough — or two more common "minor symptoms." Those include aches, sore throat, runny nose, diarrhea, vomiting, "general unease," or a loss of smell, taste or appetite.

If they develop symptoms at school, they'll be placed in a sick room set aside for this purpose until you can come collect them.

Step 2: Call your local health centre

After that, OCPHO advises parents to call their local health centre, which will "give the appropriate guidance."

"Every situation can be a little bit different and it is essential that advice from local healthcare providers are followed throughout the process," Mike Westwick, a spokesperson for the OCPHO, wrote in an email.

Based on your child's potential exposure to COVID-19, local health workers may order a test for your child.

For most people, that test involves a long swab being dabbed at the back of your throat. It's not painful, but it can be unpleasant.

WATCH | Take a tour of one Yellowknife school's measures for preventing the spread of COVID-19:

Yellowknife's Range Lake North School will be reopening with new measures in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 7:20

When can my kid go back to school?

There's been some confusion about that.

Health officials initially said it would be left up to local health centres to decide if students would need to wait for a negative test before returning to class.

Later in the day, health officials clarified that if the local clinic believed a child with symptoms had been exposed to COVID-19, they would need to isolate for a minimum of 14 days, regardless of a test result.

They also said children who did not receive a test "must self-isolate for a minimum of 10 days" after their symptoms first showed. Symptoms would have to "completely resolve" before they could return to class, Westwick wrote.

But Tuesday evening, they dialled that message back, saying if the local health clinic decided testing was not necessary, the child could return to school as soon as symptoms subsided.

So when can sick kids return to class? In short, if your child has been exposed to COVID-19 or has recently travelled, prepare for a minimum of 14 days of isolation. And if your local clinic decides a test is necessary, prepare to wait for the result.

Westwick says the average turnaround time for a test is about four days, though positive results are reported more quickly. Yellowknife's COVID-19 testing clinic has been advising patients they should receive a result in four to seven days.

And if your clinic decides no test is necessary, treat it like an ordinary sick day and wait for symptoms to subside.

A school drop-off zone in Yellowknife on Aug. 28. School started across the territory on Aug. 31. (Graham Shishkov/CBC)

What should we be doing while waiting for a result?

Most schools are offering "blended" remote and in-class learning so students in isolation can keep up with their studies.

That could include take-home worksheets, online classes and regular check-ins with teachers to discuss their progress.

If your kid is waiting for a test result but otherwise filled with youthful energy, it might be a good time to ask their teacher about options for learning at home.

Clarifications

  • A previous version of this article said children would have to isolate for a minimum of 10 days if they presented with COVID-19 symptoms. Mike Westwick later clarified that children who are not required by their health-care provider to get tested will only need to wait until their symptoms subside before returning to school.
    Sep 01, 2020 7:51 PM CT

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