Rapid tests coming to some Quebec schools to curb spread of Delta

Quebec schools are already using new strategies to contain the spread of COVID-19, and its most contagious variant, after more than 600 schools reported at least one case of the coronavirus among students or staff since students returned to class.

One of the methods they're banking on is bringing in rapid testing for students.

Some are already sounding the alarm on the number of cases just weeks into the new school year, including Olivier Drouin, founder of the COVID Ecoles initiative.

“The wave in schools this time around, this particular school year, is two to three times faster and more cases in schools than last year,” he said in an interview.

To try and curb the spread of the virus, the province is going to deploy rapid tests to certain schools with the hope of catching cases before they lead to outbreaks.

The goal is to roll this out ahead of the upcoming flu season.

“We now have tons of other respiratory viruses circulating, all of which, when you look at them in an infected child, will present as very similar symptoms,” said Dr. Caroline Quach, an infectious disease specialist and pediatrician at the Université de Montreal.

Dr. Quach studied the use of rapid tests in schools last year and found they were only reliable when students presented symptoms.

However, she said even if asymptomatic cases aren't caught, the tests will still make a difference.

“Those that are usually missed are those with a lower viral load so, therefore, should be less likely to transmit,” she said.

For now, the health ministry said, rapid testing will only take place in schools in COVID-19 hotspots, including Montreal North and Parc Extension.

School officials were still working out the details with the province on Monday, but unions say they’re worried about the increased workload for teachers, who, they say, already have enough on their plate.

“We’ve already added tons of work onto the backs of teachers and the fact that they’re now adding something else, which is the administration of rapid tests, doesn’t make sense to us,” said Heidi Yetman, the president of the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers.

Yetman adds she would prefer that people be hired to administer the rapid tests in schools instead of relying on teachers, but she agreed that something needs to be done to help push the virus out of Quebec classrooms.

Newsletters

Breaking News alerts, info on contests, and special offers from partners