COVID-19 rapid tests: B.C. parents, child-care workers push for greater access

Parents of daycare-aged kids in our province say COVID-19 rapid testing would help them save time, money and stress every time their child has a sniffle while in care. Richard Zussman reports.

Jennifer Findlay, owner of Creo Kids in White Rock, B.C., says rapid tests could have helped curb the spread of COVID-19 at her child-care centre earlier this year.

A child had come in with no symptoms, but eventually tested positive for the virus, Findlay said. That case turned into six cases, and spread to staff, parents, and the local school.

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“In this situation, when we had the first two cases, we could have had all of the other kids tested before allowing them in and that way, it wouldn’t have spread,” she told Global News.

Findlay is among dozens of parents and child-care providers calling on the B.C. government to provide greater access to federally funded rapid tests, including the nearly 2 million tests currently in storage, to help curb transmission especially among children who are too young to be vaccinated.

Vancouver mom Dana McDonald said she ordered 25 rapid tests for $250 through an online retailer to test her son.

Other parents have been asking to use the tests as well, she said, because they find the province’s response insufficient.

“It has been such a huge stress reliever to rule out COVID before sending him back after his symptoms have lessened,” McDonald said.

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Both Alberta and Quebec have announced they will make take-home rapid-test kits available to the general public starting next week.

In a statement to Global News, the B.C. government said the provincial health office and the BC Centre for Disease Control are reviewing the guidance for child-care centres and will provide updates as necessary.

The current guidance recommends that child-care staff and other adults should wear a mask when indoors and interacting with other adults, as well as frequent hand washing by staff and children, completing daily health checks, and supporting anyone who is sick to stay home.

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B.C.’s current COVID-19 testing policy is built around the PCR test, for which a person must display symptoms before they are eligible.

“B.C.’s approach to testing increases the likelihood that those most at risk of contracting or transmitting the virus are tested immediately,” the statement reads.

“This approach allows public health to detect COVID-19 cases early, which reduces transmission in our communities, and helps keep all of us safer from the virus.”

The province is also waiting on the federal government to deliver rapid-test kits that can be administered at home, adding that the 2 million kits in storage require nurse support to administer.

Meanwhile, parents like Chantal Moore of Vancouver have made the decision to pull their child out of daycare because of worries about spreading the virus.

Moore is still paying for her two-year-old, Wesley, to attend daycare, but she hasn’t been sending him. The only way she could be guaranteed to keep a daycare spot she waited more than a year for was to keep paying.

“I was told if I pulled him out, I would lose the space, and I have being paying for a space I can’t use.”

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Rapid tests would give her more confidence, she said, especially because she has immunocompromised people in her family.

“I think rapid tests would be a game changer in B.C. It is tool in our tool kit,” Moore said.

Some child-care providers have expressed concerns about testing children. The rapid test can irritate the nose, and some kids may resist trying it.

Other facilities have strict policies around symptoms, sending kids home if they display as little as a runny nose.

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Alison Merton, director of Collingwood Neighbourhood House in east Vancouver, said testing kids would be a challenge, but rapid tests should be available for adults working in child care.

“It would allow us, as an agency, to put a plan together much faster than we do now when we are just sitting waiting for tests to come back,” Merton said.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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