Rapid testing coming to schools after 24 COVID-19 cases reported in one weekend

·3 min read
Cases in schools are continuing to rise as schools prepare to go online.  (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)
Cases in schools are continuing to rise as schools prepare to go online. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)

Rapid COVID-19 tests could be used in schools as early as this week, as the province works to get outbreaks under control.

The government of Saskatchewan is providing 100,000 rapid COVID-19 tests to schools across the province.

The tests use a short nasal swab and can be administered by anyone who has completed a training program. The province said schools are going to work with their local medical health officers to determine where to do the testing and ensure parents and caregivers give consent.

Teachers will not be asked to administer tests, the province said. If a rapid test is positive then a polymerase chain reaction test is needed to confirm it, the province said.

"A rapid testing program in schools is another excellent tool to help monitor the presence of COVID-19," Education Minister Dustin Duncan said in a statement.

19 cases of COVID-19 recently reported in Regina schools

COVID-19 cases are increasing in Regina schools with 19 cases reported on March 20 and 21.

Dr. Maurice Hennink, a medical health officer for Regina and area with the Saskatchewan Health Authority, said school cases reflect community transmission.

"We are constantly interacting with the school administration on individual cases as well as advising in terms of close contact," Hennink told The Morning Edition on March 22. "We're interacting and providing advice to them very, very actively."

Online learning to begin

Regina's two main school divisions were previously told to assume a majority or all of school cases were variants of concern. Regina Public Schools are going online for high school students starting on March 24, with elementary students doing the same on March 29.

Regina Catholic schools will all move to remote learning starting on March 29.

Both the public and Catholic school expect students will return to in-person learning on April 12.

Hennink said the move to online learning should help cut COVID-19 transmission levels.

"We'll have to see, you know, how the next two weeks unfold in our community," Hennink said.

Regina Public Schools are going online for high school students starting on March 24, with elementary students doing the same on March 29. Regina Catholic schools will all move to remote learning starting on March 29.
Regina Public Schools are going online for high school students starting on March 24, with elementary students doing the same on March 29. Regina Catholic schools will all move to remote learning starting on March 29.(Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)

Infectious diseases doctor Alex Wong said while Regina ICU doctors are reporting the variants affecting younger people, it's not necessarily school-aged children who are becoming critically ill. Even still, Wong said due to community spread the school divisions are making the right choice to go to remote learning.

"We're seeing widespread community transmission with a much more transmissible virus," Wong said. "A lot of the outbreaks that are being seen and traced by my colleagues here in Regina are tracing from schools.

"Unfortunately, right now I believe that it's necessary until we're able to get things under control and get a much more significant proportion of the population vaccinated and protected."