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THE COVID-19 screening students have to pass before they can come to school is under review, as Manitoba examines British Columbia’s move to remove symptoms, including runny noses and sore throats, from its list.
Before the school day, students in Manitoba are required to answer a series of questions about potential novel coronavirus symptoms. They are asked about everything from recent travel to exposure history to current health.
If they have a new onset or worsening of a fever higher than 38 C, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, vomiting, diarrhea or loss of taste or smell, they are not allowed to enter a school building.
Students are also asked to stay home if they experience any two of the following symptoms: runny nose, muscle aches, fatigue, pink eye, headache, unknown skin rash, nausea or loss of appetite.
"It’s all about how sensitive you want to be," chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said during a Monday news conference.
"If you have a very sensitive screening tool, it means many people will be excluded who don’t have COVID. If you decrease that sensitivity then you increase the chances of somebody with COVID passing the screening test."
Roussin said runny noses are a sole symptom for approximately 10 per cent of the patients who have tested positive in Manitoba.
On Monday, B.C. officials removed 10 symptoms from its back-to-school checklist, citing the low probability of symptoms including headache, fatigue, pink eye, dizziness, skin rash, muscle aches, abdominal pain and loss of appetite.
Checklist decisions need to be made based on local scenarios and rates of absenteeism, Roussin said, adding Manitoba may adjust its list if absenteeism rates spike.
He noted flu season is on the horizon, and allowing all staff and students into a school who have a runny nose could cause concerns.
The federal government’s checklist states symptoms vary from patient to patient but does not list a runny nose or sore throat as signs of COVID-19.
Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.
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