A new COVID-19 at-home student screening program has been introduced to help protect the unvaccinated NWT student population ages 5-11.
This program is being offered where there is the highest risk for large-scale community spread including in the territory’s largest elementary schools along with any smaller school close to large outbreak centers.
Included in the program are 12 schools in Yellowknife, Hay River, Behchokǫ̀, Inuvik, Ndilǫ and Dettah.
Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola says this home monitoring program is an important part of the safe return to school plans.
“This non-invasive test, performed at home, will help keep our children safe from a potential outbreak while ensuring in-class learning is maximized,” she adds.
Parents will have the option to volunteer to have their children included in the program. Each week, a random sampling of 10 percent of classroom students will be selected for testing.
These tests will be administered using the at-home rapid response test by parents or the student themselves and involves a simple swab in the lower region of the nose, which offers immediate test results.
Health and Social Services Minister Julie Green says this screening program will allow public health to detect asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 among students and respond quickly to isolate cases and reduce the risk of spread within the schools.
“If participation is high enough, we are hopeful that this program will help to ensure the continuation of in-person learning,” she adds.
Results will be reported through an online platform, or a paper form if preferred. Only the program administrator at the child’s school will have access to test results.
Once all identifying information has been removed from the data, they will be forwarded along to the Department of HSS.
Any positive test results will require confirmation at a health centre or COVID screening site and students will be required to isolate while they await confirmation of the test results.
Kandola says the program will continue until a vaccine is widely available to this population and uptake is high enough.
“This program can only be offered if there is enough participation from students to meet the minimum testing requirements for the program,” she adds.
Kandola says this approach is being used widely in both school and workplace settings across Canada and is considered a key tool in controlling the spread of the disease and enabling in person learning and working to continue.