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Health leaders in Hampton Roads urge students to screen for COVID-19 symptoms

Nancy Carlson with Newport News Public Schools said students and staff alike can use the division's questionnaire online to guide their daily screening.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Local health leaders said the emergence of the omicron COVID-19 variant makes it more important to screen students every morning.

Nancy Carlson, the health services supervisor of Newport News Public Schools, said students and staff alike can use the division's questionnaire online to guide their daily screening.

"It's any one of the questions. If you're running a fever, if you have a stomach ache, cough, runny nose," said Carlson. "If yes to any of the above, do not report to school or work."

Additional symptoms to watch out for are chills, shortness of breath, new loss of taste or smell and loss of appetite.

The top five omicron symptoms are runny nose, headache, fatigue, sneezing and sore throat.

And given recent holiday gatherings along with the colder months, Pediatric Infectious Diseases Specialist Dr. Laura Sass with Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters in Norfolk explained why preventing the spread is paramount.

"You're not doing as many outdoor activities and your chance for viral spread is much higher not only for SARS-CoV-2, which the virus that causes COVID-19, but the flu and some of our other viral things like RSV and human metapneumovirus," said Dr. Sass. "All of those are all spread the same way and we're seeing children with those things too." 

She also said if your child is feeling ill, your pediatrician is the first point of contact.

"They'll help either direct you to either their office, the urgent care or the emergency department," said Dr. Sass. 

And if a student or school employee checks "yes" to any of the screening symptoms, Carlson has this advice. "Contact your principal, supervisor and/or school nurse. And then, of course now, we also recommend anyone who is symptomatic test for COVID-19."

Newport News Public Schools is also following the new CDC recommendations for isolation and quarantine.

"The revised CDC guidelines recommend a shortened isolation time for people with COVID-19 from 10 to 5 days if they are asymptomatic or with symptom improvement, followed by 5 days of wearing a mask when around others.

 Additionally, individuals who are exposed to someone with COVID-19 and are unvaccinated should quarantine for 5 days followed by strict mask use for an additional 5 days.

People who have received their booster shot do not need to quarantine following an exposure, but should wear a mask for 10 days after the exposure. For all those exposed to COVID-19, the CDC recommends COVID-19 testing at day 5 after exposure. If symptoms occur, individuals should immediately isolate until a negative test confirms symptoms are not attributable to COVID-19."