New, take-home testing kits for COVID-19 are coming to Toronto schools this fall, in an effort to help better monitor the spread of the virus among unvaccinated children as the province endures a fourth wave, CBC News has confirmed.
SickKids, which is part of the program, says that the rollout for the testing kits to all schools could take until the middle of October. The news was first published by The Toronto Star this morning. Other partner agencies include Toronto Public Health, Michael Garron Hospital and Women's College Hospital.
Test results through the program will be available within one-to-two days, and will allow parents to not have to worry about booking appointments. The tests are also saliva-based, so young children won't have to deal with uncomfortable deep-nasal swabs.
Dr. Julia Orkin, physician and lead of the mobile testing program at SickKids, told CBC News these tests will be for kids who are showing symptoms, or who have experienced a high-risk exposure.
"I really hope that what it means is individuals have access to testing," she said.
"We know the need going into the fall may be high."
Vaccinated and asymptomatic students and staff in certain Ontario high schools who are exposed to COVID-19 through an outbreak or cohort will also be given an at-home test as part of a provincial pilot project set to begin next month, however, schools in Toronto are not included.
The province released its back-to-school plan earlier this month, which laid out rules like staff and students Grade 1 and up must wear masks in indoor settings, with exceptions during meal breaks and low-contact physical activities.
Self-screening will be required before coming into school facilities, while team sports, field trips and extracurricular activities will be back on, along with assemblies and recess. Students can also share materials such as toys and art supplies and be in shared spaces including libraries and cafeterias.
Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore said earlier this month that it's time to "normalize" COVID-19 in schools.
"I really can't envision or see any closure of any schools in Ontario, or colleges, or universities," Moore told reporters.
"We have to normalize COVID-19 for our schools and have an approach that's prudent, that's cautious, but that realizes we're going to have a rise in cases."
Cases are already rising, even before all students are back in class. Ontario reported 781 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, which is the largest daily case count since early June.