Toronto hospitals sending 1,200 home COVID-19 testing kits to schools and child care centres

TORONTO — This school year, on top of homework, many Toronto students will be able to take a COVID-19 test home.

The hope is for families and schools is to act quickly on positive cases and keep kids in the classroom.

“I’ve had one before and it really tickles. I don’t exactly like it, but I’m fine with having a home covid test, it’s just kind of uncomfortable,” said Ethan Odlum, a Grade 4 student.

“I think it’s actually better because you can just relax on your couch and then you can just do it,” said Shiloh Hughes, also going into Grade 4.

“The benefit is often the kid can do them themselves,” said Dr. Janine McCready, Infectious Disease Physician at Michael Garron Hospital.

To administer the test, the student or care giver swabs the tongue, each side of their cheek and slightly inside each nostril.

The testing kits were developed by the hospital can be picked up at 112 schools in its East End catchment area.

They’ll be used when a child has symptoms or a class or cohort is dismissed because of a positive case.

“They are about 90 per cent as sensitive as those brain probing pharyngeal swabs that are the gold standard, but they are just as specific so if you test positive it’s very very likely, the same as the pharyngeal swab that you really have COVID-19 and they are more sensitive then the rapid test,” said McCready.

Once the test is completed, families can bring it to the COVID-19 assessment centre at Michael Garron Hospital or other outreach centres. It takes about 24 to 72 hours for results to come back. 

The program was piloted at Grenoble Public School, a large elementary school with many newcomers in Flemingdon Park.

The hospital has translated the kits into eight languages and created diagrams to show how it’s done.

“It’s the overcoming of the barriers, making it accessible, making it timely so that when we have a positive case, we have those results back quickly so we can act in a manner that’s proactive to prevent future transmission,” said Prinicpal Mikki Hymus.

Parents who spoke with CTV News Toronto, welcome the test kits. 

“I think knowing where the spread is really important. It can allow us to get ahead of it,” said Heather Baily. “There are so many asymptomatic cases, we don’t even know where it’s going to crop up. The more testing you can do, the more knowledge you can gain.”

Women’s College Hospital and The Hospital for Sick Kids are also distributing home testing kits.

All three hospitals are reaching 1,200 schools and childcare centres this school year to find cases as soon as possible.

“What we’ve seen with the Delta variant is that the time you’re exposed and it can spread to other people is shorter than COVID last year,” said McCready.

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