Get your flu shot, says Colby
By Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative
Runny noses are causing a major problem for Chatham-Kent’s school boards.
St. Clair Catholic District School Board (SCCDSB) and Lambton-Kent District School Board (LKDSB) are seeing a lot of absent students from their in-person classrooms due to a few minor COVID-19 symptoms.
“We’re very concerned about the absences that we’re seeing in our classrooms right across our district. Parents have been very concerned as well, as are our teachers,” said Deb Crawford, director of education, SCCDSB.
Crawford said the sniffles and a runny noses, usually due to minor colds or allergies, have been one of the biggest symptoms that are keeping children at home.
John Howitt, director of education, LKDSB, added that although it is frustrating to have so many absences, it is still the best course of action to ensure students’ safety.
“The screening tool is in place as the first line of defence to ensure we do our best to keep COVID out of our schools, which then helps to ensure it doesn’t spread,” he said. “A greater concern is a positive case coming into school that could have been avoided.”
Both directors said parents should find a “balance” between recognizing a runny nose from the cold weather and following the screening guidelines.
As a result of the problem, being felt province wide, Ontario announced on Thursday that it will update its school and child care screening guidance. There are now two sets of questions about symptoms and information to help parents make informed decisions about whether their children should attend school or child care, need to consult a health care provider, or get tested for COVID-19. The guidance can be found immediately at the COVID-19 Screening Tool for Children in School and Child Care.
“(The new criteria) was to address the large number of students that have been referred for testing for very minor symptoms, like a runny nose or a sniffle. And it’s unlikely – especially in low prevalence jurisdictions – to be COVID-19,” said Dr. David Colby, Chatham-Kent’s medical officer of health. ‘It’s very much contributing to the saturation of the laboratory system capacity.”
Crawford said parents will be able to access the screening tool online by the beginning of next week.
“So we’re very optimistic that the new screening tool will help us to deal with the absences that we’re seeing in our schools,” she said.
Flu season is also right around the corner and symptoms can often be confused with those of COVID-19.
Colby said CK Public Health is scheduled to receive a supply of flu shots on Friday. The full range of flu vaccines will be available at pharmacies, family doctors and all medical practitioners as per usual.
CK Public Health is encouraging all residents to get the flu shot this year.
“Part of the COVID strategy is to encourage everybody to get a flu shot this year because the symptoms can be confusing between influenza and COVID. So the more people who get vaccinated against influenza, the less we’ll have confusion with regards to COVID-19,” Colby said.
If residents catch both infections at once, one will increase the severity of the other, he added.
“And hopefully, we can dispense with all this anti-vaccine nonsense that continues to circulate. You can’t get the flu from the flu shots. They are very safe and effective.”