Please find below a letter that we received from Toronto Public Health (TPH) last night with regard to COVID-19 “variants of concern” that have now been confirmed in 8 schools in Toronto, including 3 TDSB schools. As TPH indicates in their letter, this was not unexpected, however, we both felt it important to be transparent with our school communities about the presence of the variant. At this point in time, TPH is not advising schools to take any additional precautions; however they are reminding everyone of the importance of the existing health and safety measures in place in our schools, including the revised screening tool for students and staff.
Toronto Public Health Letter
Re: COVID-19 Variants of Concern (VOC)
Recently, new strains of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been identified. Some of these new strains are called variants of concern, because they spread more easily between people. Toronto Public Health (TPH) has identified individuals in some school settings who have tested positive for a variant of concern. This is not unexpected as these variants are known to be spreading in Toronto and Ontario. TPH has recently started updating daily case counts and information about variants of concern in Toronto, which is available here.
As Toronto continues to experience increased cases of variants of concern, it is more important than ever to follow the steps of self-protection. The public health measures you are practising now will also work to prevent the spread of variants, including:
Limiting your contact to household members only, and to stay at home as much as possible.
Going our only for essential outings such as medical appointments, food shopping, school, essential work, or for physical exercise.
Keeping at least two metres (six feet) apart from others outside your household.
Wearing a mask.
Cleaning your hands frequently, with soap and water for 15 seconds.
Staying home if you are feeling unwell or if you have been told to self-isolate.
Public health measures in schools will also work to prevent the spread of COVID-19 variants. Students, families and staff will need to stay at home when they are not in school, and not gather together outside of the school setting. Social gatherings and playdates outside of the school setting have led to the spread of COVID-19.
To add to the protections for our school communities from COVID-19 and its variants, TPH made some important changes to the school screening tool for staff and visitors and students JK-12. Please make COVID-19 symptom screening part of your morning routine.
If staff/visitors have one or more new or worsening symptoms they must stay home, self- isolate and arrange to get tested. Please see Follow-Up Instructions for School Students, Staff and Visitors tested for COVID-19 for more information.
Thank you for all that you are doing to keep our schools and communities safe. Please continue to visit our website at: www.toronto.ca/COVID19 to stay up-to-date. For COVID- 19 information related to schools, please visit toronto.ca/COVID19SchoolInfo. If you have questions about COVID-19, please call our Hotline at 416-338-7600, Monday-Sunday 8:30 AM – 8:00 PM. Interpretation services are available. If you need immediate health care assistance, please call Telehealth Ontario 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-866-797- 0000.
COVID-19 School Response Team Chief Nursing Officer