Parents raise concern over COVID-19 rules in day cares and possible over-testing for virus
LONDON, ONT. -- Uncertainty continues to hang over some parents as they integrate their children back into day cares, where any illness may raise concerns about COVID-19.
Associate Medical Officer of Health for the Middlesex-London Health Unit, Dr. Alex Summers, tells CTV News that if a child experiences a COVID-19 symptom in a child care setting, a parent or guardian has three options, but first the child will have to leave the setting.
Then the child’s guardian can either keep them at home for 14 days in self-isolation, visit a primary care provider to rule out COVID-19, or visit an assessment centre for testing.
Kristin Philip, mother of an 18-month-old says her child underwent testing two days after returning to daycare on Aug. 4, due to her son Lucas having diarrhea.
"Day cares are under the same ministry guidelines as everyone else and they are doing their best," says Philip. "When children reintegrate into school and day care they pick up all kinds of bugs and viruses, but not all of them are COVID-related."
Philip says she took Lucas to get tested because it was the short-term solution that would have Lucas back in day care the soonest. She says she attributes Lucas' diarrhea to nerves, but is concerned about 'over-testing' Lucas when cold and flu season hits.
"That means missed time from work, missed time for school and it doesn’t seem like a sustainable model moving forward for employers and for children," says Philip.
Her son has since tested negative for the virus and is back in day care after self-isolating at home for 24 hours.
Summers says the health unit has been working hard, alongside child care settings, to set up protocols to keep everyone safe, and adds that this year things will be different.
"This is still a pandemic," says Summers
"One of the challenges that we are going to face this year is that some of the things that we just let slide in previous years when it comes to the routine cough and cold, is going to be a bit different this year. We do have to be more responsive to those types of symptoms in child-care settings and in schools to make sure it’s not COVID-19."
Summers adds that it is a situation by situation assessment and different child care centres will have "slightly different protocols."
"But at the core, it’s important to recognize that this year more than ever we need to make sure that people who are ill are not in these settings so that we are protecting each other from COVID-19."
Angela Woodburn, co-executive director for London Bridge Child Care Services, says their child care facility is following the health unit’s protocols.
Woodburn says that each morning children are screened before entering the building, and if a child does not pass the screening test they will be asked to either see their family doctor, self-isolate or get tested at an assessment centre.
"Right now families are generally understanding. I think that might change as more families are coming back to child care, we are not at full capacity yet."
Woodburn says that in her experience so far, many families are choosing to get COVID-19 testing instead of opting for self-isolation or seeing a family doctor.
"As soon as they have a negative test and the symptoms have been resolved for 24 hours they’re welcome to come back, so that is what most families are choosing."
Philip says that child-care settings are only doing their best and understands that it’s unprecedented times for everyone, but adds that the guidelines implemented may not be sustainable in the long run.
"I think over-testing will be hard on all Ontario families, for employers and especially for our health care systems as we pull nurses from other speciality areas to continue to run these COVID-19 assessment centres," says Philip.
"I think (the health unit) need to increase the mandates to include at least two or three common or uncommon symptoms of COVID-19, before we submit children to constant testing over self-isolation."