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Ontario to offer take-home COVID-19 tests for some high school students as part of pilot project

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WATCH ABOVEl Ontario won't mandate COVID-19 vaccines for school staff, students but looking to increase testing options: Lecce – Aug 4, 2021

The Ontario government has announced that some high school students will be given take-home COVID-19 tests as part of a pilot project when classes resume in September.

Officials said the project will be aimed at staff and students who are vaccinated, asymptomatic high-risk contacts due to an outbreak.

Students and staff do not need to disclose their vaccination status and participation in the take-home tests are voluntary, the ministry of education said. Those may seek testing at a local assessment centre or the option to isolate.

The testing pilot project will launch the week of Sept. 7. — for eight weeks — ending on Oct. 29. It will focus on 13 of the 34 local public health units across the province.

Read more: Education group wants COVID-19 vaccination required for eligible Ontario students

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The take-home tests will include instruction materials and a lab requisition, and schools will be responsible for receiving, storing and distributing the take-home, self-collection kits, officials said. The number of kits provided to schools will be based on an estimated 15 per cent of secondary school enrolment.

The tests can also be self-administered or administered by another person. Instructional videos on how to take the test will be available, the government said.

Specimens will be dropped off at the school and an on-demand courier will pick up the tests, the ministry said.

The government has not made it mandatory for those eligible students (aged 12 and older) to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Education Minister Stephen Lecce said in early August the government was looking at increasing testing options.

Read more: 86% of TDSB students want to return for in-person learning amid stricter COVID-19 protocols

Thirteen local public health units were selected for the take-home testing pilot project. These include:

  • Chatham-Kent Public Health
  • Durham Region
  • Eastern Ontario Health Unit
  • Grey-Bruce Public Health
  • Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit
  • Middlesex-London Health Unit
  • Niagara Region
  • Northwestern Health Unit
  • Peel Region
  • Porcupine Health Unit
  • Thunder Bay District Health Unit
  • Windsor-Essex
  • York Region

The ministry of education said the units were selected based on vaccination rates, enrolment size, proximity to testing centres, positivity rates, geography among other factors.

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It also said Toronto and Ottawa, regions that typically see higher rates of COVID-19, were not selected as part of the pilot due to services already being made in these regions and to avoid duplication.

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