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STF pressuring province, schools to start administrating COVID-19 rapid tests

Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation. Lars Hagberg / The Canadian Press

Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation president and CEO Patrick Maze says he would like to see school divisions start administering COVID-19 rapid testing immediately.

“We have the rapid tests and we need to be using them,” Maze said.  “This is our best tool to get ahead of the spread of variants of concern and slow transmission in our schools and communities.”

The province announced on March 22 it had distributed 100,000 tests to school divisions in Saskatchewan.

Read more: Moose Jaw schools move to remote learning due to spike in variant cases

It said school divisions are in discussion with local medical health officers to determine if and when the test would be introduced into schools.

“The Ministries of Education and Health are working together to prepare parent consent forms, and other information about how the test may be used in school settings,” a spokesperson for the Ministry of Education told Global News an email Friday.

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“Rapid testing will be voluntary and will require parental consent if parents choose to have their children have a rapid test.”

As of Saturday, the south-central zone, where Moose Jaw is located, accounts for 104 of the province’s reported variants.

Read more: Sask. health officials issue warning about COVID-19 variant rise in Moose Jaw

All pre-kindergarten to Grade 12 schools in Moose Jaw, along with Caronport Elementary School, began remote learning on Monday.  Students are scheduled to return on April 12.

Maze said he is hearing teachers are worried about their health and believes the province’s response to what’s been happening in schools is too reactive.

“They are scared, frankly. Not just for themselves, but for their communities. Transmission in schools contributes to transmission in communities and vice versa,” Maze said.

“Saskatchewan is not alone in this and we should be acting proactively based on what we know has worked in other regions. We must use every tool available to keep people safe and keep our schools open.”

The ministries of education and health told Global News they are working to prepare parent consent forms and other information regarding how rapid testing will work in schools.

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Read more: Sask. NDP urges expansion of COVID-19 restrictions to Moose Jaw, SHA asks residents to get tested

“Rapid testing will be voluntary and will require parental consent if parents choose to have their children have a rapid test,” the province said.

“The Ministry of Health is in the process of identifying third-party providers to use point of care tests in schools and other locations around the province.

“The tests can be administered by lay-people who have completed an online training session that has been developed by the Saskatchewan Health Authority Lab. The SHA expects an on-demand online module will be available by April 5.”

Maze is also pushing the government to make teachers a priority when it comes to vaccinations, something the province has yet to commit to.

Click to play video: 'Moose Jaw schools move to remote learning due to spike in variant cases' Moose Jaw schools move to remote learning due to spike in variant cases
Moose Jaw schools move to remote learning due to spike in variant cases – Mar 26, 2021

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