COVID-19 School Outbreak
Access the Online COVID-19 School Screening Tool
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***The information in this page applies to childcare centres including daycares, after and before school programs, and EarlyONs and family centres***
To view any current schools or childcare centres in outbreak, visit our Local COVID-19 Data page.
If you are looking for school-specific information on COVID-19 cases, visit the school board’s webpage:
If you / your child are part of a school outbreak, you will receive communication from the Windsor Essex County Health Unit with directions and information. This communication may come as a letter or voicemail from the school.
Due to the high-risk of being exposed to COVID-19, students and staff that are dismissed from school due to an outbreak need to self-isolate at home for a minimum of 14 days. Students and staff should monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 and get tested immediately if they start to have symptoms.
To self-isolate, teachers, staff, and students should:
- Stay home and limit contact with others in the household.
- Stay in a separate room in the house and use a separate bathroom if possible. If this is not possible, make sure to clean the bathroom after each use, and maintain physical distancing at all times.
- Stay 2 metres away from other members of the household. If physical distance of 2 metres is not possible, your child and members of the household should wear face masks.
- NOT leave the home (or other place of isolation) unless for medical care or COVID testing.
- NOT use public transportation (buses, trains). If you need to use a vehicle to get medical care, use a private car, taxi or rideshare. Have as few people in the vehicle as possible. Wear a mask, roll the windows down, and sit on the opposite side from the driver.
- If you are caring for a child, make sure that you wear personal protective equipment, such as a face mask, when not physically distanced.
- Students can attend school virtually if they feel well enough.
For more information on self-isolation in different languages, please visit Health Canada’s website.
Students, staff, and identified visitors of a school in outbreak may be directed to get tested for COVID-19. Testing should be done 5 to 7 days after the date of exposure. The date of exposure will be given to you by public health.
Staff, students, and families can access testing at any of the COVID-19 assessment centres or the temporary outbreak testing sites below. Appointments for testing at assessment centres can be made online or by phone.
When waiting for test results, you must self-isolate. If you test negative, you must still self-isolate for your full 14 days, and monitor for symptoms. If you test positive, self-isolate and someone from public health will contact you with more directions
Monitor for symptoms
Teachers, staff, school visitors, and mature students should monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19. Younger students should be monitored by family members. Monitoring can be done with the help of the online self-assessment tool https://covid-19.ontario.ca/school-screening. It is available in multiple languages.
Other members of the household should also be monitored for symptoms, and can use https://covid-19.ontario.ca/self-assessment
Practice good hygiene
To reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the home, good cleaning and hygiene should be used. Members of the household should:
- Wash their hands often, especially after caring for anyone isolating due to COVID-19, or has symptoms of illness
- Regularly clean and disinfect items in the house that are touched frequently such as toilets, sink taps, doorknobs, and light switches
- Use tissues when they cough or sneeze and immediately throw them away into a garbage bin lined with a plastic bag for easy removal
Take care of your mental health
Coping with public health measures related to COVID-19 can cause stress and anxiety for students, staff, and their families. An outbreak can cause fear and increase this stress. It is important for you to find ways to remain calm and find answers to your questions from credible and reliable sources. Your public health unit is a credible and reliable source.
For resources and information to help you, please visit the mental health section of our website.
An outbreak will be called if two or more COVID-19 cases are confirmed (by lab test) in students, staff, or visitors within the school in a 14-day period. At least one of these cases should be believed to have been infected while in the school, or during a school activity. This may include school transportation and before-school and after-school care programs.
COVID-19 school outbreaks can only be declared by public health under the direction of the local Medical Officer of Health. When a school outbreak is declared, local public health will provide direction and support to the school, including direction for cleaning, disinfection, isolation, and testing. An outbreak can only be ended by public health, and directions will be given to the school community at that time.
In an outbreak, public health may dismiss the whole school, or certain groups of students (cohorts). The affected cohorts will get communication from the health unit through the school.
Partial school dismissal
During an outbreak, the school may stay open while some classes are sent or kept at home (dismissed). Public health will continue to work with the school community to make sure that the health and safety of staff and students is the top priority. During a partial school outbreak, the health unit may tell the school to:
- Increase symptom screening
- Restrict visitors and their movement within the school
- Restrict movement between staff and students
- Restrict or stop school activities
- Further increase cleaning and disinfection
- Further increase signage and education for staff and students
Students and staff who are part of the dismissed cohorts will hear from public health for testing and self-isolation.
Whole school dismissal
A school outbreak may require all students, teachers, and staff be sent home (whole school dismissal) in addition to closing the whole school. This decision will be made by the Medical Officer of Health based on information about the confirmed cases in the school. Whole school dismissal may be needed to help prevent further spread (contain) of an outbreak when it has spread through the school.
Outbreak measures during a whole school dismissal may include:
- Recommending the self-isolation of all staff, students, and visitors
- Recommending all staff, students, and visitors get tested for COVID-19
- Closure of the school
- Cleaning and disinfecting of the school
Declaring the outbreak over
The Health Unit will make the decision that an outbreak has ended (been rescinded) based on the following:
- at least 14 days have passed from the last outbreak-associated case in the school (including students, staff, visitors, or anyone else in the school during the outbreak period)
- All people with symptoms have been tested AND received their test results
- There are no health and safety concerns around reopening the school
Note: An outbreak does not need to be over for public health to allow cohorts to return to school. All students might not return to school at the same time, based on their test result or isolation dates.