Questions and answers on exposure situations in schools

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2020-11-18 15:00

What’s the difference between exposure and infection? 

A person who has been infected with the coronavirus disease COVID-19 (i.e. a person whose disease has been confirmed with a positive laboratory test and who usually also has symptoms of the disease) may expose and infect others. 

Exposed persons are those who have been in close, unprotected contact with the infected person while he or she is infectious. Exposed persons may be placed in quarantine. The purpose of quarantine is to reduce the risk of further infections so that the exposed person does not infect others if he or she falls ill.  

Usually, only some of those exposed get infected with the coronavirus and fall ill during quarantine. For example, after exposures in schools, most children remain healthy during the quarantine period. Therefore, the family members of a child who has been exposed at school are not placed in quarantine unless they themselves have been exposed. 

Will I be notified of exposures at my child’s school?  

Yes. The principal and Espoo’s Infectious Disease Unit will inform guardians through Wilma. The children who have been exposed and their parents will receive a Wilma message from the school. The message contains instructions and the end date of the home quarantine. Those exposed will receive an official quarantine decision by post. The Infectious Disease Unit does not currently contact all exposed persons by telephone.  

If you have questions about quarantine, you can call the city’s coronavirus helpline, tel. 09 816 34600 (Mon–Fri 7:00–18:00 and Sat–Sun 9:00–15:00).  

Other guardians and staff are informed through Wilma that there has been an exposure situation at school. The exact location or time of exposure will not be disclosed to protect the privacy of the children and adults. 

What does quarantine mean? Is a child allowed to see friends or participate in hobbies? 

Those who have been placed in quarantine must stay at home. They cannot go to work or school, participate in hobbies or meet people outside their family. More detailed instructions on quarantine

A person placed in quarantine must follow the quarantine instructions. The quarantine decision is based on the Act on Communicable Diseases, and breaking quarantine is a punishable health protection violation under the Criminal Code. 

Can I stay at home and take care of my child if he or she is placed in quarantine? 

Yes, you can. The quarantine order sent by post is an official decision that entitles a guardian to stay at home, if necessary, to take care of a child who is under the age of 16, even if the child is healthy.  

Is it true that a teacher who wears a mask will not be placed in quarantine? Are only some of the pupils in a class placed in quarantine? 

Whether someone is placed in quarantine is assessed on a case-by-case basis depending on the intensity and duration of the exposure. The use of masks is one of the factors that affect the overall assessment. 

Often, the entire class is placed in quarantine. According to the criteria defined by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), staying in the same classroom for more than 15 minutes is considered close contact and may result in quarantine. During the school day, such contact is difficult to avoid.  

I was notified about an exposure situation through Wilma last night. Why can’t I find the information on the city’s website?  

Information on all school exposures is published on the city’s website, but only after the persons exposed have been identified and information has been sent through Wilma to the exposed persons, the guardians of the exposed children, the guardians of the other children attending the school, and the staff. This is why the list is updated with a delay. 

Quarantines in schools and early childhood education 

Pupils were placed in quarantine one week after having been exposed: why not earlier? 

Guardians are informed of coronavirus cases and resulting quarantines as soon as information on a confirmed positive coronavirus test result has arrived at the Infectious Disease Unit and the exposed persons have been identified. If the exposure situation is extensive and identifying all those exposed takes a long time, advance information will be sent to the guardians of the children in classes most likely to be affected by the exposure. 

If a test result is delayed (e.g. if a person who has fallen ill has gotten tested several days after the onset of symptoms), there is a delay between the exposure situation and informing those who have been exposed. It is important to get tested as soon as the symptoms begin so that quarantine measures can be taken as quickly as possible. 

My child has a runny nose; should I get my child tested? 

We recommend that you follow the guidelines by Finnish institute of health and welfair (THL). If the child has symptoms suggestive of the coronavirus, it is important to leave school immediately and get tested quickly. 

Instructions for getting tested:  
You can book a test appointment for your child aged under 16 through the Coronabot website. 

If you wish to book an appointment by phone, you can call Espoo’s coronavirus helpline, tel. 09 816 34600 (Mon–Fri 7:00–18:00 and Sat–Sun 9:00–15:00). Outside these hours, please call the Medical Helpline, tel. 116 117. 

You can also assess your symptoms using the Omaolo service. 

How fast can a person get tested for the coronavirus? 

At present (week 47), Espoo residents can get tested on the same day and get their results within 24 hours. 

Why aren’t all the people who have been exposed tested? 

In most cases, imposing quarantines and testing symptomatic exposed persons are sufficient measures to effectively limit further infections. Asymptomatic exposed persons have been tested on a case-by-case basis in schools where the risk of transmission is estimated to be high. However, so far hardly any new infections have been detected in this way. 

There are now more school exposures and more people who have been infected. Is there a link here? 

As the number of infections increases in society, it is expected that some pupils, students and members of staff will also be diagnosed with the coronavirus. This, in turn, leads to exposure situations in schools. In Espoo, the majority of schoolchildren who have been infected have contracted the virus outside of school, and there are no indications that the increase in the number of infections is specifically linked to schools. 

There have been two infected persons at the same school; did one infect the other? 

Not necessarily. The children may have contracted the virus in a hobby group, or they could be siblings who have been infected at home and who attend different grades at the same school. The two cases could also be entirely separate. 

Have there been many further infections in schools? 

The origins of the infections are determined by interviewing those who have been infected. Each chain of transmission is examined separately, and particular attention is paid to suspected further infections.  

In general, the number of further infections in schools has been low in relation to the total number of infections and the number of exposure situations. Over the past two weeks, around 2% of the infected persons in Espoo have contracted the virus in educational institutions, such as day care centres, schools, upper secondary schools or universities (situation on 16 November). Timely quarantines have largely prevented the spread of the virus in educational institutions. 

Why won’t you close schools? When will all schools switch to distance learning? 

The city will monitor the situation closely. If the situation so requires, schools can quickly switch to exceptional teaching arrangements. This means that one or more school classes or grades will temporarily study from home. According to the instructions of the Finnish National Agency for Education, teaching is still organised as contact teaching. 

With regard to basic education, the decision on switching to exceptional teaching arrangements is made by the Director of Education and Cultural Services in cooperation with the infectious disease authority. With regard to upper secondary schools, the decision is made, depending on the situation, by the principal, the Executive Superintendent of Upper Secondary and Adult Education or the Director of Swedish Education and Cultural Services in cooperation with the infectious disease authority.  

During the autumn, exceptional teaching arrangements have been introduced in a few schools. The pupils will receive more detailed instructions from their school. 
 

Up-to-date information about the coronavirus: 
 City of Espoo: espoo.fi/coronavirus 

HUS: www.hus.fi/en/newsroom/coronavirus-covid-19  

THL: thl.fi/en/web/infectious-diseases-and-vaccinations/what-s-new/coronavirus-covid-19-latest-updates