Rapid COVID tests being provided to Windsor-Essex students next week
Students being asked to take a test every few days during Christmas break
Windsor-Essex schools will start giving students rapid COVID-19 tests next week in an effort to manage the possible spread of the virus, and its variants, over the Christmas holidays.
The tests will be made available to students in both the public and Catholic boards, and their use over the holidays will be voluntary. Students aren't required to take the tests if they want to return to the classroom in January.
Parent Leslie Beneteau said Wednesday she was in favour of the tests.
"It's just protective," she said. "Especially for my daughter. She's four, she can't get vaccinated, so I'd like to know if she was positive, or anybody around her was."
"I think it's a positive thing, I'm not scared to test her.
Ammar Bakro, who has an eight-year-old daughter enrolled in school, was also in favour of the testing.
"I think it's a good idea," Bakro told CBC News on Wednesday. "It will make our society more safe."
The boards are requesting all asymptomatic students take one of the tests every few days during the holidays.
In a letter to school communities, the Greater Essex County District School Board said that If one of the rapid tests comes back positive, the result should be considered preliminary. The student should to get a PCR test within 48 hours, and then isolate while awaiting a result.
Any students displaying symptoms, or who have been in close contact with someone else with COVID-19, are asked not to use the rapid tests, and instead get a PCR test.
Rapid tests have already rolling out to businesses in the Windsor-Essex area.
Windsor-Essex Chamber of Commerce chair Rakesh Naidu told CBC News that the chamber's rapid testing program has been running for about six months, in partnership with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.
"This is really a program where we've offered these rapid test kits at no cost to any business in the Windsor-Essex region," Naidu said. "It takes less than 15 minutes to get the test done and you get a result either a positive or a negative."
"It really keeps the workplace safe," he said. "That's the whole purpose behind it."
So far, Naidu said, nearly 1,000 companies in the region have participated; nearly 76,000 test kits have been given out.
"There is more interest now, especially, with the concern in terms of the new [Omicron] variant," he said. "So we are continuing with this program."
"It was a little bit slow to begin with, but then as people realize the importance of it, as they heard from their colleagues and from the other business partners in terms of the utility of this, it has really taken off."
The decision by the school boards to offer students the rapid tests comes amid calls to make the tests free, and more accessible, to all Ontarians.
Ontario's NDP released a statement on Wednesday calling on the Ontario government to hand out as many of the tests as possible, for free.
"This is part of the action plan Ontario needs to prevent another COVID wave," NDP leader Andrea Horwath said in a statement. "Let people take a rapid test before visiting with loved ones. Encourage people take a rapid test at the first signs of a cold. That's what other provinces do, and if I were premier today, that's what Ontario would do."
In addition to the 11 million rapid tests being given to students over the holidays, the province plans to offer free rapid tests to asymptomatic people in pop-up locations, such as malls, during the holiday season.