Child-care operators, staff call for access to PCR testing, more HEPA filters

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Ontario child-care operators and staff are calling on the provincial government to take steps to make those settings safer during the COVID-19 pandemic and to ensure the sector's long-term viability.

One immediate step urged by the dozens of operators, labour groups and public health experts who have signed on to an open letter to the premier is to reinstate eligibility for PCR testing.

Late last year in response to a surge in Omicron cases, the province limited access to PCR testing to high-risk settings, which doesn't include child-care centres or schools, except if a student or staff member develops symptoms while at school.

The child-care operators and staff say allowing access to PCR testing would mean centres could track cases and parents would only have to isolate at home with their child for one or two days in the event of a negative result, instead of five.

They also say that the province should provide enough HEPA filters for each classroom and common area in Ontario's over 5,000 child-care programs, settings in which children are largely unmasked.

The letter also calls on the government to increase financial support to licensed child-care programs to ensure recruitment and retention of staff, and to sign on to the federal government's $10-a-day child-care plan.