Children with mild illness can go back to school or daycare once their symptoms are gone, whether they test positive for COVID or not, says B.C.’s provincial health officer.
“If they have mild illness, they can return to school when symptoms have resolved and they’re feeling better enough to do usual activities — and the same applies for childcare,” Dr. Bonnie Henry said in a media briefing on Friday.
“I know this is different from where we’ve been trying to make sure we’re keeping COVID out of everything, but the reality is that we don’t transmit as much if we’re well, so these are the things that we need to consider now.”
Childcare and preschool providers and parents have expressed frustration and confusion in recent days over direction on the B.C. Centre for Disease Control website that says unvaccinated people with a respiratory illness or who have tested positive for COVID-19 should isolate for 10 days.
Because children under five can’t be vaccinated, some are defaulting to the 10-day rule or asking for concrete instruction.
The B.C. CDC website is being updated to indicate that children have to isolate only for five days.
Henry said she hears the call for “definitive unchanging guidance,” but COVID is not allowing for that. “The virus is changing, and we need to adapt as well.”
The new Omicron variant is also forcing changes in advice in “real time,” as health officials learn more about the variant, she said.
Henry said there is evidence that precautions over the holiday season and in the weeks since have made a difference in blunting the impact of the virus.
She noted that in addition to COVID, there are many respiratory illnesses circulating, including flu and RSV — respiratory syncytial virus — and COVID testing is not readily available. As well, Omicron can aggravate other conditions, such as asthma.
Meagan Brame, director of Saxe Point Day Care in Esquimalt, which has 16 children, said parents can sometimes be more optimistic about when a child is deemed recovered than a childcare centre operator liable for all of the children’s welfare.
“I basically say five days [of isolation], or symptom-free [for] 48 hours, whichever is longer,” said Brame, who also requires the 16 children age three to five in her care to wear masks.
Catriona Brown, owner of Nightingale Preschool and Junior Kindergarten Ltd., said this week she shut down her Fernwood preschool out of an abundance of caution after a child and staff member tested positive, based on unvaccinated people having to isolate at least 10 days.
The Nightingale preschool — in which three teachers oversee 57 kids — reopens Monday.