Infectious Disease: Prevention and Control
A hothouse of infection
Transmissible diseases thrive anywhere that people gather. Childhood diseases, young immune systems, and a developing sense of hygiene conspire to make schools a uniquely risky environment for infectious disease.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, information about how to reduce transmission has changed and been updated frequently. Links to the most recent guidance to prevent the spread of disease has been provided on this page. Your local public health unit or school board may also have additional advice/information. ETFO continues to represent members at provincial and local tables to address health and safety concerns, and encourages members and parents to join lobbying efforts at www.buildingbetterschools.ca.
The pandemic brought infection control practices to the forefront of school health and safety. Best practices, including enhanced cleaning and hygiene, were reinforced, such as:
- Hand hygiene that includes washing at a sink with warm water, soap and paper towels, and access to hand sanitizers
- Protective gloves – and the training for proper use – for staff who could come into contact with blood or body fluids
- Cough and sneeze etiquette such as the use and disposal of paper tissue; coughing or sneezing into the elbow
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as appropriate, such as masks, shields and gowns
- Adequate custodial staffing and procedures to properly clean high touch surfaces including washrooms, doorknobs and shared equipment
- Effective ventilation systems that are properly maintained, including filter changes and regular assessments
- Physical distancing and cohorting, as recommended by Public Health
In addition, people who are too sick to be at school should stay at home until they are well again. ETFO has repeatedly advocated that paid sick leave should be available to all workers so that not only education workers, but the families of students are able to follow this advice.
It’s important to remember that ETFO members must follow the safety directions of their employer, but that is the minimum expectation. Implementing, as you are able, health and safety precautions above and beyond that minimum is prudent, from a personal safety and professional responsibility standpoint.
Your health and safety rights – to know, to participate and to refuse – are still in effect, even during difficult times. Report any concerns about infection prevention and control to your principal. It’s the principal’s job to investigate and deal with your report. Tell your steward and your health and safety representative about your concerns. Get in touch with your ETFO local office for more support. Infection prevention and control can help keep everyone safe and reduce sick days!
Additional Background Information
Websites to reference:
Voluntary Asymptomatic Testing and Vaccines:
Masks and PPE
- Mask use for non-healthcare workers
- How to choose, use and care for a mask
- How to make your mask fit properly
- Recommended Steps: Putting On and Taking Off PPE
- Authorized medical devices for uses related to COVID-19
- Hand Hygiene (How to Wash Your Hands/Use Hand Sanitizer)
- How to Prevent Skin Damage from Cleaning Products
- Respiratory Hygiene
Cleaning and Disinfection
- PHO: Cleaning and Disinfection for Public Settings
- PHAC: COVID-19 Cleaning and Disinfecting
- WHSC: Cleaning and Disinfecting
- Recall of Certain Hand Sanitizers
- Hard-surface disinfectants and hand sanitizers (COVID-19)
Self-Isolation and Self-Monitoring
For Advocates and Health and Safety Reps
- WHSC: Confronting COVID-19: Conducting effective Workplace Inspections
- CUPE: General Health and Safety System Checklist: COVID-19
- CHECKLIST COVID-19 Preparedness and Prevention in Elementary and Secondary (K-12) Schools
- PSHSA: Risk Assessment for Schools