British Columbia

Father in Burnaby calls for rapid testing for child-care centres after toddler gets COVID-19

Andrew Longhurst says rapid testing for COVID-19 should be made available to childcare centres. His son Levi tested positive for the virus during an outbreak at SFU Childcare Society.

Andrew Longhurst's son Levi contracted COVID-19 from outbreak at SFU Childcare Society

The Longhurst family snap a photo while in isolation following 16-month-old Levi testing positive for COVID-19 in February 2021. (Andrew Longhurst)

A father in Burnaby is calling for rapid COVID-19 testing to be deployed in child-care centres after his toddler was infected with the virus during an outbreak at his daycare.

Andrew Longhurst's 16-month-old son Levi tested positive for the coronavirus after the SFU Childcare Society notified parents of an exposure on Feb. 10.

"He had very mild symptoms of acute illness," said Longhurst. "But it's the last news that you want for your child."

Longhurst's wife, Levi's mother, tested positive five days later.

"It's no surprise to me that she contracted COVID," said Longhurst, even though they've "been obsessive about cleaning surfaces and we've opened all our windows and ventilated our 500-square-foot apartment."

The SFU Childcare Society in Burnaby B.C. had the first declared outbreak of COVID-19 at a daycare in the Fraser Health Authority. (Doug Kerr/CBC News)

The outbreak at SFU Childcare Society was declared by Fraser Health this week and is linked to at least 26 positive cases.

Earlier this week Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said an unsanctioned pub trivia event held in the Fraser Health region had resulted in 15 people becoming infected with COVID-19 and spread to several workplaces, schools and a child-care centre.

Events such as trivia games nights at pubs are currently banned under provincial health rules.

The Fraser Health Authority has now linked the event to 25 primary cases of COVID-19 and other secondary cases. It has not confirmed the link between the pub and the daycare outbreak, but the outbreak the the SFU Childcare Society is the first in a daycare in the health authority during the pandemic.

SFU Childcare Society is located on top of Burnaby mountain among a treed area on the west side of the Simon Fraser University campus. It provides childcare to the families of SFU, its alumni, UniverCity resident families, and families from the broader community. (Doug Kerr/CBC News)

Longhurst said that rapid testing could have helped prevent transmission at the daycare.

"When there was indication of one positive case in the child-care centre community, that's an opportunity to rapidly deploy rapid testing to the whole child-care community," he said.

The tests are able to determine a COVID-19 infection in a fraction of the time as lab-based tests, but are not as accurate.

B.C. has received more then 1.3 million rapid test kits from Ottawa, but has only deployed them at a few sites across the province. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said the tests are not a solution because they take extra staff to administer.

Other sectors across B.C., such as long-term care homes for the elderly, have asked that rapid tests be used as a tool to control outbreaks and screen workers.

Two cohorts at the SFU Childcare Society have now been told to self-isolate and parents like Longhurst are scrambling to find alternative care.

"Thankfully, we have wonderful friends and family to call on. But I don't know how people without paid sick leave and ...  who generally don't have a strong social network, I don't know what they would do in this situation," he said.

Longhurst says he and his family will have to isolate until March 7.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story said the SFU Childcare Society had closed due to the outbreak. In fact, the centre is still open to children who have not been asked to self-isolate.
    Feb 21, 2021 5:30 PM PT

With files from Eva Uguen-Csenge.

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