During a COVID-19 update on Thursday afternoon, Alberta’s Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange announced that rapid tests will be offered to select Calgary schools as part of a new pilot program.
The province will conduct more than 100,000 tests at two Calgary schools currently experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks.
“This new pilot program is a significant addition to rapid testing and we are not stopping,” said Health Secretary Tyler Shandro.
“These tests are an important tool to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to break the chains of transmission. We will continue to expand the rollout and hope to be able to offer many more tests to other companies and sectors in the coming days. “
At each participating school, a team will be put together to test students and staff who have no symptoms of COVID-19 and who have not been identified as close contacts.
Rapid test results can be available within an hour. Students and staff who get a positive result on the test cannot return to class and must isolate themselves.
“The use of rapid tests is expected to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in schools,” said Marilyn Dennis, chair of the Calgary Board of Education. “This is an important and proactive step that should continue to help support the health of our students, staff and school communities.”
Before testing, staff must sign a consent form and students must have a consent form signed by their parents or guardians.
These schools offer tests for students who do not experience symptoms for up to three weeks a week.
It is important to note that positive results from rapid tests are considered preliminary.
Students and staff who get a positive result on any of these tests must take an additional PCR test at an Alberta Health Services assessment center to confirm the case.
The results of the first three weeks of the pilot project will be assessed and used to decide how the pilot program can be extended to additional schools and regions.
The provincial government said a school will participate in both the Calgary Board of Education and the Calgary Catholic School District. The locations have not yet been selected, however they are schools and are currently experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks.
“We are testing rapid tests in schools with outbreaks as part of our commitment to safely continue personal learning,” said Education Minister Adriana LaGrange. “Rapid tests can potentially provide a timely review of the situation in an entire school where an outbreak is occurring.”
“Every day a student can attend school in person is a win during the pandemic.”
In addition to this pilot program, nearly a million rapid tests are being used to protect students, workers and vulnerable Albertans from COVID-19.
Tests have been provided for the following:
- 325,000 tests for Suncor, Syncrude and CNRL
- 267,000 for long-term care, designated supportive housing, and hospice facilities
- 100,000 to rural and remote hospitals, assessment centers and other health facilities
- 76,000 to WestJet
- 56,000 to various other industries and groups in the province
The Alberta government said thousands more rapid tests will be distributed to more companies and service providers in the coming weeks.