In-School Rapid Testing Pilot Program To Expand

·2 min read

At a news conference on April 10, 2021, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced that the in-school rapid testing pilot program that began in mid-March is set to expand to include up to 300 schools in Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge, and Grande Prairie. The increased testing will begin as rapid testing teams are set up and put in place. As part of this expansion, 440,000 rapid test kits will be made available for this program. This initiative is meant to be flexible, so teams may also be set up outside of the listed areas if Alberta Health identifies the need at a specific school.

Junior and senior high schools will be prioritized in these communities based on factors such as the prevalence of COVID-19 in the schools and their surrounding communities. Testing will begin in Calgary and Edmonton and then continue into Lethbridge and Grande Prairie. The number of schools at which the rapid testing will be offered may change from week to week depending on the school's size and the amount of time needed to administer the tests.

Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange had this to say about the expanded testing program, "I am pleased to significantly expand on our successful rapid testing pilot in schools to more students and staff in more communities. Rapid test screening is one more tool to limit the spread of the virus in schools and ensure students can keep learning safely from the classroom."

With this expansion, rapid testing will be offered to up to 200,000 students and 20,000 school staff members. The province will work with school authorities to decide which schools will participate, with testing teams being deployed to the selected schools. The school staff members will need to sign a consent form to participate, and the students will need to have their consent forms signed by their parents or guardians. Staff and students who are not symptomatic, and have not been in close contact with someone that has tested positive, will be able to get tested while at school.

The results of the rapid tests could be available in under an hour. Participants who receive a positive test will not be able to return to class and will be required to isolate. Positive test results from rapid tests are considered preliminary and will need to be confirmed with a PCR test from Alberta Health Services.

Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grizzly Gazette