BC school rapid tests rolling out, more on the way

Rapid tests promised by the province for BC school staff have been arriving in some districts, while others are still waiting.

Last week, the government announced 200,000 COVID-19 rapid antigen test kits were being shipped out for teachers, staff and administrators in elementary and secondary schools around the province.

On Friday, some Metro Vancouver districts confirmed they had received the tests, including Surrey, Vancouver and Burnaby. Others, such as Coquitlam, Mission and West Vancouver, said they had not arrived yet.

BC Teachers Federation president Teri Mooring said Friday the tests need to be repackaged at the district level before being distributed.

“I know that some education workers have begun to receive them, but I guess it depends on how quickly districts can repackage them and get them out,” she said, and added workers are anxious to get the tests.

“It’s a really disconcerting time, given – for the most part – people do not have access to testing. There is no contact tracing happening. ”

Mooring pointed out the initial shipment of 200,000 tests promised last week roughly works out to two rapid tests per worker.

“That’s all the support staff, teachers, and administration, and other workers within the system,” she said. “We do think that more needs to be provided.”

The vice president of the Vancouver Elementary School Teachers Association, Jody Polukoshko, would also like to see more on the way, and added she was glad to hear Vancouver’s tests had arrived.

“We understand there’s going to be some repackaging and redeployment within the district, and we’re hopeful that will happen early within the next week,” she said. “We’m glad that’s going to be coming. We think two is probably a little bit inadequate, given the complexity of symptoms and the constantly changing descriptions of what symptoms matter. ”

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the province is expecting about 10.5 million more rapid tests to arrive by the middle of February.

“That’s a reduction in what we expected. It’s still a considerable amount, ”he said. “And, as those tests come out, they’ll be distributed to key priority areas, and K-to-12 education is clearly one of them.”

The Health Ministry said Friday an additional 300,000 tests had also been allocated for schools, bringing the total to 500,000.

As BC’s supply grows, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the province intends to make rapid tests more widely available in the school community.

“What we would like to be able to do is provide them to parents so that you can make those decisions for your child if they have symptoms on any given day,” she said. “That’s part of the plan.”

Polukoshko said teachers are seeing a strain on school resources in Vancouver.

“What we’re seeing in Vancouver is a reassignment of staff to cover absences, which is resulting, in some cases, in loss of services to students and increased workload for already exhausted teachers,” she said, and added they’ve also been calling for a vaccine mandate in their district.

“We feel like that’s an additional layer of protection and support for students and for staff.”

Mooring would also like to see the province publicly share attendance rates for districts, as well as functional closures.

“It just gives a bit of a picture of what’s happening in schools,” she said. “The district picture is better than nothing. Right now, we have no information. We are aware that the province is collecting attendance information, but there is no transparency in terms of sharing it. ”


RAPID TEST ROLLOUT IN METRO VANCOUVER SCHOOLS

CTV News reached out to school districts around Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley on Friday to find out where rapid tests had arrived. Here are the responses received:


Surrey

Received: Yes

Distribution: some already handed out, more in the coming days


Burnaby

Received: Yes

Distribution: expected to begin Monday (Jan. 31)


Coquitlam

Received: No. Expecting notification soon and staff on standby to prepare kits for distribution.


Chilliwack

Received: Yes

Distribution: Started Friday (Jan. 28)


Abbotsford

Received: Yes

Distribution: Expected to begin early next week (week of Jan. 31)


New Westminster

Received: Yes

Distribution: Expected to start Friday (Jan. 28)


Vancouver

Received: Yes

Distribution: Said they are being deployed, pickup information is being shared with staff. Did not provide timeline.


North Vancouver

Received: Yes

Distribution: Week of Jan. 31


West Vancouver

Received: No


Mission

Received: No


Maple Ridge / Pitt Meadows

Received: Yes

Distribution: Expected to start week of Jan. 31


Langley

Received: Yes

Distribution: Expected to start week of Jan. 31


Delta

Received: Yes

Distribution: Expected to start week of Jan. 31

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