OPH letter aims to help 'frustrated' families fast-track return to school

Ottawa Public Health has created a form letter designed to help children with a chronic condition, or who have recovered from COVID-19 or another illness, return to school more smoothly.

Letter would let students return even without medical certificate, negative COVID-19 test

Students arrive at Jonathan-Pitre Catholic Elementary School in Ottawa on Aug. 18. Ottawa Public Health is trying to make it easier for students with chronic conditions, and those who have recovered from an illness including COVID-19, to return to school. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) has created a form letter designed to help children with a chronic condition, or who have recovered from COVID-19 or another illness, return to school more smoothly.

The attestation letter, which is available now on the OPH website, allows students to return to school without a medical certificate or proof of a negative COVID-19 test.

The letter gives parents four scenarios to select from, including one where a child's symptoms that are linked to a chronic condition, and another where a doctor or nurse practitioner has ruled out COVID-19 as the cause.

OPH clarified Tuesday that if the symptoms are new, a doctor or nurse cannot distinguish between a cold and COVID-19 and would likely refer the child for testing. 

The letter also allows parents to attest that their child has completed 14 days of self-isolation but has not been tested for COVID-19, or that a child has received a negative COVID-19 test result.

'Families are frustrated'

"We know many families are frustrated with the experience regarding the return to school for children who have experienced non-COVID-related symptoms or illness, or who recovered from COVID-19," reads a statement from OPH.

"In response to this issue, OPH has developed and made available an Attestation for Return to School for Students Following Illness letter for families with children returning to school following symptoms of illness, including supporting parents to confirm that there is a non-COVID-19 reason for the symptoms."

OPH said it trusts assessments by parents related to known underlying conditions, and said it does not recommend schools demand a negative test or a medical certificate to allow children to return to class. 

The letter also states that if a child has tested negative for COVID-19 but continues to experience a mild symptom common among children their age, like a runny nose, they can return to school.

OCDSB not on board yet

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, Ottawa's largest school board, said it first saw the letter Monday and has yet to release guidance on how it can be used.

"We haven't had a chance to implement the letter yet and will communicate information to families about how and when to use the letter when it is ready for distribution," wrote a spokesperson for the school board Monday evening.

All people with signs or symptoms of COVID-19 in Ottawa must self-isolate for 14 days or until COVID-19 can be ruled out, such as with a test, under a Class Section 22 order

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