Montreal daycare workers surprised COVID-positive kids can attend if they don’t have a fever

Some daycare owners are concerned about the latest COVID-19 recommendations issued by Montreal’s public health department (DSP).

They learned only this week that children with COVID-19 can still attend daycare as long as they don’t have a fever.

The guidance does align with current recommendations for the general public, as outlined last week by Dr. Luc Boileau, the province’s public health director, but some are surprised it applies to young children in daycares.

Boileau had specified that anyone who has a fever or feels quite sick, whether they have COVID-19 or any other respiratory illness, should stay home so they don’t infect others. But they no longer have to isolate for five days.

They should, however, wear a mask and practice basic hygiene measures like hand washing and social distancing when they return to indoor spaces where they interact with others.

The guidelines apply to workplaces and schools, but daycare administrators found out this week that it also applies to their centres.

The problem with that, they say, is that children in daycares have a hard time wearing masks, handwashing and social distancing.

So even if they are fever-free, it’s likely they won’t be able to contain other symptoms like runny noses and coughs and are more likely to spread COVID-19 to others if they return to normal activities before the symptoms are mostly resolved.

“There are a lot of children in one daycare and they crisscross from group to group and each child goes home to a family,” said Gina Gasparrini, the executive director of CPE St-Mary, which is associated with St-Mary’s Hospital in the Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough.

“Each time a child has COVID in the daycare he could potentially infect other children or some staff,” she said, “and they may also bring it home so the wheel will just continuously turn,”

Gasparrini said she is worried about the children’s health and everyone involved in their care.

Yesterday Canada’s chief public health officers, Dr. Theresa Tam and Dr. Howard Njoo, said this could be a bad winter for COVID-19 and other seasonal viruses like influenza and RSV, a virus that usually makes young children sicker.

While Dr. Tam added it is up to individual public health agencies to mandate masking both she and Njoo recommended the practice of masking at a press conference on Thursday.

“We do know that during the winter period we’re going to get respiratory virus circulation and that’s why we’re advocating that people enhance those good personal habits,” Tam said.

“A use of masks, especially in indoor spaces that are not well ventilated, and being thoughtful about who they interact with, then we may have a less serious season than maybe if people really let go and don’t take it seriously,” added Njoo.

Tam said mask mandates may make a difference in dampening the surge in infections currently overtaxing pediatric hospitals.

Four months ago Health Canada, she said, approved the first COVID vaccine for children between six months and five years of age, but fewer than 7 per cent of young Canadian children have received it and only 1 per cent have had both doses.

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