Alberta changes COVID-19 symptoms list for school-aged children

Story by Stacie Gaetz


Photos by iStock

Symptoms including a runny nose, sore throat and nausea no longer require that Rocky View Schools (RVS) students self-isolate for 10 days, according to recent changes made to the COVID-19 Alberta Health Daily Checklist.

As a COVID-19 safety measure, all students, staff and visitors are required to complete the applicable checklist daily before entering an RVS building and follow the directions specified in the document.

According to Alberta Chief Medical Officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the checklist was altered to “help get children back into childcare or school as quickly and safely as possible while minimizing the risk of COVID-19.”

“These changes will help get Albertans under 18 back into classrooms and childcare settings while still keeping each other safe,” said Hinshaw during a press conference on Oct. 29.

She added AHS developed the list knowing that they would revise it if needed based on new evidence and learnings in other jurisdictions.

Hinshaw said that out of 3,400 children recently tested for COVID with sore throat as a symptom, less than one per cent had COVID-19.

In more than 3,300 children who were tested with a runny nose, 0.5 per cent tested positive for the virus.

“This shows us that these symptoms by themselves are very poor indicators of whether a child has the virus,” she said.

She added that the new checklist does not apply to children who have had exposure to a known case of COVID-19.

The changes also include adding two new core isolation symptoms: loss of taste and smell.

“This is a shift to a more targeted checklist… (that will) help us focus on those who are most at risk and decrease wait times,” said Hinshaw.

She added that these changes follow in the footsteps of BC, Ontario and Quebec, provinces that have made similar changes and have not seen a corresponding increase of COVID in schools.

A letter signed by Superintendent of Schools Greg Luterbach was sent to RVS parents on Oct. 30. It states that the checklist will take effect province-wide on Nov. 2.

Highlights from the Children Under 18 Checklist include:

  • The core isolation symptoms for children are now one (or more) of the following: cough, fever, loss of taste or smell and shortness of breath. If a child has any of these core symptoms:
    • They are to isolate for 10 days OR have a negative COVID-19 test result and feel better before they return to school or other activities.
    • Runny nose and sore throat have been moved to second category of symptoms and no longer require 10-day isolation.
  • If a child has one of the following symptoms: chills; sore throat or painful swallowing; runny nose or congestion; feeling unwell or fatigue; nausea, vomiting, diarrhea; unexplained loss of appetite; muscle or joint aches; headache; or conjunctivitis (pink eye):
    • The child must stay home and monitor for 24 hours.
    • If, after 24 hours, their symptom has improved, they can return to school/activities when they feel well enough to attend. Testing is not recommended.
    • If, after 24 hours, the symptom worsens, or if additional symptoms emerge, or if the child has any two symptoms from this second list, they are to continue to stay home, and testing is recommended but not required. The child can return to activities and school when their symptoms have resolved AND it has been 24 hours or more since their symptoms started.

The new checklist can be viewed by clicking here.  To see an updated student flowchart, click here.  For access to the entire RVS School Re-Entry Plan Scenario One, click here.