Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, speaks to media at a press conference about COVID-19 in Whitehorse on March 30. During a COVID-19 update on Sept. 16, Hanley outlined new guildlines to help parents decide whether they should send thier children to school. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Yukon government releases new guidelines for COVID-19 symptoms and sending children to school

The advice sorts symptoms into three categories: red, yellow and green

Red Light, Green Light is a common schoolyard game, but it’s also a good way to decide whether or not you should be sending your child to school under the Yukon government’s new COVID-19 guidelines.

“One of the most challenging areas we’ve all been grappling with, whether in our own family life as parents and caregivers or as children or staff in schools, has been in knowing what the right thing to do is when children are sick,” said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley at a COVID update on Sept. 16.

“We have parents wondering about what happens when they themselves need to be at work and are reluctant to take yet another day of sick leave, or even if there is any sick leave left. So we have taken this problem to our team and I think we settled on some advice for parents and staff that we expect will offer some relief and some clarity,” he said.

The new guidelines categorize symptoms with three colours: green, yellow and red.

Green designates a child who has no symptoms and can attend school. This includes children with diagnosed health conditions who may have symptoms that are normal for their day-to-day, such as allergies.

Yellow means the child has milder symptoms that may be common in ordinary illnesses. The government recommends in this case that a child stays home for 24 hours to see if symptoms get better or worse.

Yellow symptoms include headache, runny nose or congestion, sore throat, fatigue, generalized muscle pain, significant loss of appetite or vomiting or diarrhea.

If symptoms in the yellow category persist more than 24 hours then children should be tested for COVID-19.

Red symptoms include a new cough, fever, loss of taste or smell or difficulty breathing. In those situations, children should be tested for COVID-19. If a child isn’t tested, they should be in self-isolation for at least 10 days from when they started having symptoms.

The guidelines are being released in a chart format on the government website to help parents and educators make decisions.

“Keeping a low threshold for testing is one of our key strategies for detecting an otherwise unrecognized introduction of COVID into our territory,” Hanley said.

He cautioned that it’s not necessary for everyone in the territory with a runny nose to drop everything and get tested immediately, but testing is most useful in the first day or two of symptoms and shouldn’t be left too long.

From Sept. 9, to Sept. 16, an additional 129 people were tested at the Respiratory Assessment Centre in Whitehorse. In total 3,020 people in the territory have been tested.

In that time six new charges have also been laid under the Civil Emergency Measures Act.

Three individuals were involved in the incidents. One person was charged Sept. 11 for failure to self-isolate and a failure to transit through the Yukon. Two people were charged Sept. 15 with failure to self-isolate and failure to “behave in a manner consistent with the declaration.”

The Yukon government is not releasing further details about the violations, including names or locations where the charge was received.

Contact Haley Ritchie at haley.ritchie@yukon-news.com