Kitchener-Waterloo

Access to rapid COVID-19 tests adds 'layer of protection' to children, medical officer says

Dr. Nicola Mercer of Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health says an announcement by the province to provide rapid COVID-19 test kits to high-risk areas will add a "layer of protection" for children and area schools.

'This program adds another local tool to fight this pandemic,' Dr. Nicola Mercer

Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health medical officer of health Dr. Nicola Mercer says she's pleased the province will be offering rapid COVID-19 test kits to high-risk schools and childcare centres. (CBC / Radio-Canada)

Planning is underway by Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health to take advantage of new targeted rapid testing of children in high-risk settings being offered by the province.

Ontario's chief medical officer Dr. Kieran Moore made the announcement Tuesday morning that some schools and registered child-care settings would be able to access the tests under certain circumstances.

In a release, public health said it will participate in the program.

"I am pleased to see the province add this layer of protection," Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health medical officer of health Dr. Nicola Mercer said in a release.

"This program adds another local tool to fight this pandemic in Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph. Locally, we will use the best available health data to ensure these tests are used as effectively as possible to protect children who are most at risk from COVID-19."

A spokesperson for Region of Waterloo Public Health told CBC K-W its department will work with local schools and childcare centres to prepare for rapid testing in the region.

"These would be determined based on local epidemiology and data with an equity lens," the statement said, adding additional details will be available in the coming days.

"This added layer of screening may be appropriate where there are higher rates of COVID-19, lower rates of vaccination and a history of outbreaks in the school or community," it said.

Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday's dashboard update. There were 64 active cases.

There were three outbreaks in schools and childcare settings:

  • A school-wide outbreak at École élémentaire catholique Saint-René-Goupil in Guelph with 19 cases, 18 in students, one in a staff member.
  • June Avenue Public School in Guelph with four cases in students.
  • Little Angles Development child care in Wellington County with three cases in children, one in staff.

How rapid testing will work

Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health said details are still being finalized, but it's expected they will use local data to decide which schools and childcare centres would get the rapid test kits. 

Other early details include:

  • The kits and education on how to use them will be provided to schools through school boards and to childcare centres through their facility management. 
  • Parents will have a choice whether or not to use the test kits.
  • If a child tests positive, they will be required to get a lab-based PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test at a local assessment centre. If they test negative, the student can then continue with in-person learning.
  • As well, rapid antigen testing will only be used for unvaccinated and asymptomatic students and children who are not high-risk contacts. Anyone with symptoms, including children, or high-risk contacts should get a lab-based PCR test at an assessment centre.

The move comes a week after the province cracked down on a Waterloo region-based program called Stay Safe, which was offering rapid test kits to community ambassadors to use at their own discretion. Several parents had signed up for the program but the province reminded the people running the Stay Safe program that it was meant for businesses only.

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