During a COVID-19 update on Thursday afternoon, Alberta Education Minister Adriana LaGrange announced that rapid testing will be offered to select Calgary schools as part of a new pilot program.
The province will be deploying more than 100,000 tests to two Calgary schools currently experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks.
“This new pilot program is a significant expansion in rapid testing, and we are not stopping,” said Health Minister Tyler Shandro.
“These tests are a vital tool in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and breaking the chains of transmission. We will continue expanding the rollout and hope to offer many more tests to other businesses and sectors in the coming days.”
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A team will set up at each participating school to test students and staff who do not have symptoms of COVID-19 and who have not been identified as close contacts.
Rapid test results may be available within an hour. Students and staff who get a positive result from the test will not be able to return to class and are required to isolate.
“The use of rapid tests is expected to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in schools,” said Marilyn Dennis, chair, Calgary Board of Education. “This is an important and proactive step that should further help to support the health of our students, staff, and school communities.”
Tests will be offered at these schools every week for up to three weeks to students who are not experiencing any symptoms.
It’s important to note that positive results from rapid tests are considered preliminary.
Students and staff who receive a positive result from one of these tests must follow up with an additional PCR test at an Alberta Health Services assessment centre in order to have the case confirmed.
Results from the first three weeks of the pilot will be assessed and used in deciding how the pilot program can be expanded to include more schools and regions.
The provincial government said that one school from both the Calgary Board of Education and the Calgary Catholic School District will participate. Locations have not yet been selected, but they will be schools currently experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks.
“We are piloting rapid testing in schools with outbreaks as part of our commitment to safely continue in-person learning,” said Education Minister Adriana LaGrange. “Rapid testing can possibly offer a close to real-time check on the situation in an entire school experiencing an outbreak.”
“Every day a student is able to attend school in-person is a win during the pandemic.”
In addition to this pilot program, nearly one million rapid tests will be used to help protect students, workers, and vulnerable Albertans from COVID-19.
Tests have been deployed to the following:
- 325,000 tests to Suncor, Syncrude, and CNRL
- 267,000 to long-term care, designated supportive living, and hospice facilities
- 100,000 to rural and remote hospitals, assessment centres, and other health care sites
- 76,000 to WestJet
- 56,000 to various other industries and groups across the province
The Alberta government said that thousands of additional rapid tests will be distributed to more businesses and service providers in the coming weeks.