The Ontario government has asked agencies tasked with distributing rapid antigen tests to stop supplying tests to families, frustrated parents who conducted tests in their school communities as a screening tool to keep children safe. volunteered his time to do so.
Parents access the tests through the Local Board of Trade, or StaySafe, a program operating out of the Kitchener-Waterloo area that provides taxpayer-funded rapid antigen tests to businesses and community groups. StaySafe Province is a collaboration between startup incubator Communitech and local Chambers of Commerce, and has more than 4,200 “ambassadors” who organize rapid testing for their businesses or their communities.
The Ontario government informed agencies this week that the rapid test was to be used by workplaces, not community groups or parents. Asked why her government is prioritizing businesses – where workers are eligible for vaccinations – over schools, Kieran Moore, the province’s chief medical officer for health, said Wednesday that the program is for workplaces. He said the province was reviewing an asymptomatic testing strategy in schools, particularly in high-risk areas, but did not indicate when it would be rolled out.
“The program was only for businesses and businesses. That program has strict eligibility criteria,” he said. “I am currently very pleased with our ability to limit the outbreak in the school setting.”
Quebec is deploying rapid testing in its primary schools. Meanwhile, the Nova Scotia government said on Wednesday that it will distribute rapid tests to families with children from preschool to grade 6, which can be used if a child has mild symptoms or if a family has access to COVID-19. Is. 19 test sites.
“We have heard from parents that they are concerned about their young children who are not yet eligible for vaccinations,” the province’s education minister, Becky Druhan, said in a release. “These take-home tests are a way to give families easy access to testing children with symptoms and an additional layer of protection on top of the core public-health measures that are in place in our schools.”
Jonah Nestel, a mother of two who attends Secord Elementary School in Toronto, said she and her parents organized a rapid-testing program a week ago that signed up more than 100 students.
“Not only is [Ontario Premier] Doug Ford isn’t doing anything to support parent-run voluntary rapid-testing programs to protect children and schools, but now he’s actually trying to actively block parents’ efforts. doing,” Ms Nestle said on Wednesday.
StaySafe sent an e-mail to its ambassadors on Wednesday, a copy of which was sent saying it would now focus its rapid-test supplies at workplaces.
“Dr. Moore and the Province of Ontario have not yet adopted broad-based rapid testing for schools and community groups. So while we have the support of the Province of Ontario to distribute rapid-test kits to workplaces through the StaySafe program “While the Ontario government’s comfort zone currently ends for rapid testing,” the e-mail said.
Lindsey Broadhead, the board’s senior vice president of communications, said the Toronto Board of Trade has seen an uptick in demand for the tests. But she said the program always applied to businesses. “We’re not policing who requests these — we’re just trying to protect small businesses and workers.”
The Ontario government requires two rapid tests a week for unvaccinated school workers paid for by taxpayers, but it excludes students from such testing. Dr. Moore recently said that testing students “has no added value” because of low community transmission, and he was concerned about false positives.
Irfan Dhalla, a physician and vice president of Unity Health Toronto’s network of hospitals, said that doesn’t make sense why the government refuses to add an extra layer of security to schools.
Estimates from Ontario’s COVID-19 Science and Modeling Advisory Table, released earlier this week, show that the fourth wave of the virus is flattening in Ontario, with cases rising among children under 12 – special Especially in children aged 5 to 11 years who are not yet eligible for vaccination.
“School is the only remaining place where we really want illiterate people to congregate. It makes more sense to use rapid antigen tests in unvaccinated children than to use them in vaccinated adults,” Dr Dhalla said.
Canada relies on polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, which are conducted in laboratories. However, rapid tests can be done on the spot to screen asymptomatic people in contexts such as schools or work places. The tests use a small nasal swab and take 15 minutes for results. A PCR test will be done to confirm the positive result.
Ontario closed schools for individualized learning more than any other province in the last academic year, and parents say their rapid testing initiative was a proactive measure to keep children in classes, Especially when the delta version threatens to disrupt a third. year of schooling.
Ottawa parent Natasha Paushinsky was about to start a rapid testing program with other parents for four schools in her area. She said she is disappointed and angry that the government has thwarted the efforts of parents to keep their children safe.
“We have rapid antigen tests that are in supply; We have the infrastructure of the program and the core groups are willing to take it up. It doesn’t make any sense to me,” she said. “this is [the government] It is acceptable that children get sick, schools are closed and family members also get sick.”
Amy Greer, an epidemiologist at the University of Guelph, connected families in her area with StaySafe’s rapid-testing program. She said she was disappointed the program was not extended to schools, especially on the same day that Nova Scotia said it would rapidly distribute tests to families. “So the argument that it’s not possible or that it doesn’t work seems out of step with what we see in other jurisdictions, including Canada.”
She said families should have easy access to rapid tests without having to pay $40 at a pharmacy.
“In the absence of a test result, an otherwise asymptomatic person would go about their normal routine and represents a risk to everyone they come across during the day. In the presence of the test result, most people will modify their behaviour, seek a PCR test and not engage in activities that put others at risk, while they await their confirmatory test result,” said Dr. Greer said.
“There’s really no negativity in my mind.”
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