This is part a continuing series of recommendations put out by CoVaRR-Net. These recommendations are directed to Federal Deputy Minister of Health, local and provincial Medical Officers of Health, the Urban Public Health Network, the Variants of Concern Expert Panel, school divisions, colleges, and universities.


What are the best practices for testing, tracing, and isolating students and teachers in elementary, secondary and post-secondary school settings for the remainder of the 2021-2022 academic year? Provinces and territories across Canada are taking different approaches.

Given the large number of COVID-19 cases in Canada represented by children and youth, clear guidelines on school testing, tracing, and isolation are critical to preventing outbreaks.

Evidence suggests the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission in schools largely reflects community risk, and thus school-based mitigation strategies should be adjusted according to community transmission.

Laboratory-based RT-PCR tests are preferred to rapid tests and are required for diagnosis, although rapid antigen tests may be useful tools for screening symptomatic individuals in high COVID-19 risk communities.

CoVaRR-Net Recommendations

At the federal level:

  • The Public Health Agency of Canada should outline clearly defined standardized national protocols for contact tracing and isolation in elementary, secondary, and post-secondary school settings.

At the provincial and territorial level:

  • For schools in at-risk communities as identified by public health authorities:
    • Monitor and evaluate rapid antigen testing programs for SARS-CoV-2 where such programs exist.
    • Require RT-PCR testing for all symptomatic staff and students, and close contacts.
    • Require self-isolation of unvaccinated close contacts for 10 days and self-monitor for 14 days (even if they are asymptomatic).
    • Require self-isolation of individuals with COVID-19 symptoms until they receive a negative test, or for 10 days if they choose not to be tested (or until symptoms resolve, whichever is longer).
  • Provide standardized instructions for schools to send to parents/guardians of positive cases and contacts. Provide staff with clear standards on adequate documentation for contact tracing.
  • Provide staff with clear instructions for self-isolation and return to work following testing positive and/or identified as a close contact.

At the local and regional levels:

  • Provide clear standards for identifying at-risk communities and school divisions to implement risk-based testing, tracing, and isolation measures.
  • Reduce barriers to RT-PCR testing for school staff and students where possible (e.g., ensure accessibility in rural areas).

Read CoVaRR-Net’s full Situation, Background, Assessment and Recommendation (SBAR) document on school testing, tracing, and isolation.

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