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Limited use of rapid tests in schools; vaccination on horizon for children

Rapid tests for COVID-19 have not proven to be a popular option for parents with children attending elementary school within the New Frontiers School Board (NFSB). Just over 50 per cent of parents have consented to the use of the test should their child develop symptoms associated with the virus during the day.

This hesitation on the part of parents towards the test, which involves a shallow swab of the nose, does not come as a surprise to the NFSB’s director general, Rob Buttars, who says that while the parental consent rates fluctuate between schools, he’s not particularly concerned about the situation.

“We are doing a handful of tests,” says Buttars, before confirming that just over 30 rapid tests have been administered throughout the board since they were first introduced on October 12. “I think it is good to have a tool when a child is not well,” he says; however, he admits test use has been very limited so far.

Buttars suggests parents are playing a key role in holding at bay the need for rapid tests. “Our parents are keeping their children home if they are not feeling good,” he explains, saying he is especially pleased with how families are continuing to collaborate with the schools after so many months of heightened monitoring for symptoms. He admits the situation at the NFSB is quite different from some boards where case numbers are significantly higher.

A recent letter issued by Dr. Julie Loslier, the director of the Direction de santé publique de la Montérégie, suggests the opposite is happening in many schools where parents are sending students to class with symptoms in order for them to be tested. Loslier writes that this practice may have contributed to recent outbreaks in schools; she reminds parents to keep home any children who display symptoms in the morning.

Currently, area schools listed as having at least one identified case in the last 14 days, as of October 28, include École Notre-Dame-du-Rosaire in Ormstown as well as Heritage Elementary in Huntingdon and Saint-Willibrord in Chateauguay. The case identified at Heritage Elementary resulted in the closure of one of two kindergarten classes on the recommendation by the regional public health authority following an investigation into the case.

Buttars says that while situations such as the case at Heritage are rare and case numbers remain very low within the schools, he is starting to hear some initial details about vaccination for 5- to 11-year-olds. “We have our partnership with the Montérégie-Ouest Integrated Health and Social Services Centre (CISSSMO), and we are ready to mobilize when we get the green light,” he says. There is hope that a first dose can be made available before Christmas.

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