Teachers' unions want to see asymptomatic testing plan at local schools
KITCHENER -- Teachers' unions in Waterloo Region say they're still waiting on plans for targeted asymptomatic COVID-19 testing at local schools.
"It's certainly frustrating and difficult to understand," said Greg Weiler with the EFTO.
The Ministry of Education piloted testing at eight Toronto schools last year. There are plans to test 40 schools a week moving forward.
Peel will have testing clinics at four schools and York's public health unit has identified 16 schools getting tested this week.
Sudbury has mobile clinics at three schools and 250 Ottawa students were tested before in-class learning.
According to that same list, Waterloo Region and Guelph will have pharmacy testing for staff.
"Certainly using Sudbury as an example, if it's possible that they have it up and running there, there's no reason why it can't be up and running in Waterloo Region," Weiler said.
Medical Officer of Health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang said current assessment centres can support testing school populations if needed. She also said the region is working with assessment centres to add pop-up testing sites in priority neighbourhoods identified by school boards.
The Waterloo District School Board said it's working with public health to add pop-up testing sites in Kingsdale and Victoria Hills areas in Kitchener, where communities are seeing higher positivity rates.
"COVID-19 is still circulating in Waterloo region and as a result, we are seeing some cases in our schools," a statement from the school board said in part.
Zahid Butt, a public health expert at the University of Waterloo, said the province should focus on implementing targeted asymptotic testing at schools locally.
"Waterloo Region should do asymptomatic testing, especially if there are other jurisdictions that are doing it," he said.
Dr. Wang said officials will continue to work with testing partners and the Education Ministry.
"This is the testing that people have been calling for, including the ETFO, to be occuring since before school started or certainly since the fall, and it's still not happening," said Weiler. "It's very frustrating."
In a memo, the province said it expects school boards to carry out targeted asymptomatic testing in five per cent of their schools each week, or to reach two per cent of their student population.
The memo said that means six public schools and two Catholic schools in Waterloo Region.
For Wellington County and Guelph they're expecting to test at four public schools and one Catholic, in Brant, Haldimand and Norfolk it'll be three public and one Catholic, and in Huron and Perth County it's been set at two public schools and one from the Catholic board.
School boards can decide which students are tested, but the province suggests prioritizing schools with high transmission rates, high case numbers or where testing access is a challenge.
The province wants the boards to have the program up and running by Monday. WRDSB says they are still waiting on more details from the Ministry of Education and will be working closely with Public Health.