Ontario to Send Rapid COVID-19 Tests to Hardest-hit Regions Amid Rising School Closures Due to the Virus | The Canadian News

TORONTO – Ontario is looking to send rapid tests to regions with high numbers of COVID-19 cases in schools, but the province’s top doctor says they won’t be distributed to all areas, even as school-related layoffs rise. the virus.

Dr. Kieran Moore made the comments Thursday as 16 schools in total were reported to have been closed due to COVID-19 and the opposition called for rapid tests for all students as a safety measure.

Moore said the province was in “active discussions” with the northern health units in Algoma, Sudbury and Timiskaming, as well as with “other areas” dealing with the increase in cases about sending faster tests to detect additional infections. .

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“That capacity is there, dialogue is ongoing in the highest risk areas of this province,” Moore said during a briefing on the pandemic. “We have the ability to provide rapid testing and enhanced testing in any region of this province that is experiencing increased activity.”

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Ontario already plans to send rapid test kits home with all students during the December break and that will continue as the province responds to local virus outbreaks, Moore said.

Opposition politicians said all Ontario students should undergo rapid tests earlier amid rising outbreaks and school closings.

Of the 16 closures reported Thursday, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said five were closed for “operational reasons” unrelated to a specific outbreak. That could mean that a large number of students or staff became isolated due to exposures, but the cases are not known to be linked, a spokeswoman later clarified.

The rest of the closures were related to outbreaks.

Almost 700 of the province’s 4,844 schools, or just over 14 percent, had a reported COVID-19 case.

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Lecce argued during a question period debate in the legislature that schools are safe, noting other testing initiatives and hiring more staff.

“The government has worked in partnership with the medical director of health to ensure that our schools remain open and safe,” he said. “We will continue to do whatever it takes to achieve that goal.”

Bus routes and class clusters have been disrupted for weeks in Sudbury as the health unit faces an unprecedented increase in cases. But school closures were also taking place outside the virus-affected regions in the north and southwest of the province.

Toronto Public Health said three schools had been laid off as of Thursday and that COVID-19 investigations were ongoing at 89 schools and 21 child care centers.

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Public health in the Waterloo region ordered a school closed on Wednesday for the first time since classroom learning resumed in September, after 19 cases of the virus were detected at the Catholic school in Kitchener, Ontario, and dismissed several cohorts of classes. The health unit said it was recommending rapid antigen tests when students returned to school after 10 days.

Another school in Ottawa was to be closed “until further notice” due to COVID-19, the city’s Catholic board said Wednesday.

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In light of the school closures, Ontario Green Leader Mike Schreiner called on the government to make rapid tests free and accessible now until the end of the school year, rather than waiting for the December break as planned.

The New Opposition Democrats also raised the issue in the legislature on Thursday, saying rapid tests should have been available earlier and called for action to stop the spike in school cases.

“Those rapid tests should have been in the hands of schools and parents in September,” said NDP legislator Rima Berns-McGown, who also called for expedited vaccination efforts for children ages five to 11, which began this week.

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“This increase in cases and closures shows how important it is for us to get vaccines into the arms of as many children as soon as humanly possible.”

Moore noted that the initiation of vaccinations for elementary school-age children is a “ray of light” for the current outbreak situation. He said the vaccines would help reduce outbreaks in school settings, something he said was anticipated in the colder months of the year.

“This is a nasty and aggressive virus, this is the time of year when we expect an increase and, unfortunately, yes, we will see an increase in cases in school settings, especially in primary schools, where they have not benefited from the vaccine. . ” he said.

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He said reducing the risk of COVID-19 in schools should be a “key motivator” for parents considering vaccinating their children, and said the province anticipates cases will decline in the new year after more children have received second doses.

“I hope all parents consider vaccinating their children,” he said. “It should really help limit the spread in the elementary school setting.”

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Dr. Moore' does not anticipate that 'vaccine certification will apply to children ages 5-11 in Ontario'

COVID-19: Dr. Moore ‘Does Not Anticipate’ Vaccine Certification Will Apply to Children 5-11 Years in Ontario

COVID-19: Dr. Moore ‘Does Not Anticipate’ Vaccine Certification Will Apply to Children 5-11 Years in Ontario

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