British Columbia

Take-home COVID-19 tests available for Vancouver kids who start feeling sick at school

Students in the Vancouver School District who develop symptoms of COVID-19 at school are now being offered take-home test kits provided by B.C. Children's Hospital, so they can collect their own testing sample at home and skip trips to a testing centre.

1,200 swish-and-gargle tests being sent to city schools to send home with kids who feel unwell

Dr. David Goldfarb, a medical microbiologist at B.C. Children's Hospital, holds a take-home test kit being used in Vancouver schools. As of April 9, 2021, students who develop symptoms of COVID-19 at school will be able to get a kit from their school, so they can collect their own sample at home. (Jim Mulleder/CBC)

Students in the Vancouver School District who develop COVID-19 symptoms during the school day will now be able to get a testing kit directly from their school to take home.

The initiative announced Thursday comes after a four-month pilot with 10 schools in central and East Vancouver.

"We did some evaluation back in the fall and found it both worked very well for detecting the virus, and parents were able to do it without any supervision," said David Goldfarb, a medical microbiologist at B.C. Children's Hospital.

"There was generally positive feedback all around," he added.

The kit comes in a plastic bag and includes a vial of salt water and a container. The child tilts their head back and alternates swishing and gargling the salt water three times before spitting it into the container. The sample is then dropped off at a LifeLabs location for analysis.

A physical distancing sign is pictured outside of Hastings Elementary School in Vancouver on September2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Goldfarb said hospital staff working on the pilot compared nasopharyngeal swabs collected by health-care professionals to swish tests collected at home without supervision, from the same patient, to see how well the latter worked. He said results were identical 98 per cent of the time.

PHSA said roughly 1,200 kits are being sent to 100 elementary and secondary schools in Vancouver or about 12 kits per school.

Goldfarb said it should be enough since the handout kits are only meant for the uncommon instances where a child arrives in class feeling OK, then starts feeling unwell as the day goes on.

"It's not something that we're expecting often — symptomatic kids going to school. So it is a small number [of take-home kits], but when kids do develop symptoms at school, they'll have this as an option," said Goldfarb, adding the hospital should be able to send additional kits if a school needs them.

Parents and children should still monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 before students go to school. If children have any symptoms, they should stay home and get tested at a collection centre.

PHSA said it is hoping to expand the testing initiative across the province, if more districts are interested.

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