New Brunswick rolls out rapid testing for students, but some have concerns

New Brunswick has rolled out a new rapid testing program for students, in response to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in schools.

Not all students are eligible for testing, leaving some parents to question the point of the program.

Sabrina Steeves’ daughter Ella spent Tuesday learning from home, after receiving an email Monday night that she was a close contact of a confirmed case at Moncton High School.

“It’s so frustrating for everybody I’m sure,” says Sabrina Steeves. “As a parent, I need to feel that my child is safe.”

Despite her close contact status, the grade 10 student is not eligible to take part in a new rapid testing program rolled out by New Brunswick, because she’s fully vaccinated.

“Even if we are vaccinated, we still have those anxieties about ‘what if we do have it?’,” says Ella.

“She doesn’t have to self-isolate, but then she has to sit and wonder and worry for two weeks,” adds Sabrina Steeves. “And then one day she has a headache, and has to worry that she’s exposing her loved ones and family members.”

The province’s Anglophone East School District said in an email Tuesday that students who are deemed close contacts and eligible for testing will receive an email from their school with instructions on when and where to pick up their tests.

In a release, the province says unvaccinated students who are identified as a close contact of a confirmed case may be provided with ‘quantities of five-pack rapid tests, depending on the last possible exposure date to the confirmed case, along with instructions.’

Tests will be picked up by parents the following day, depending upon when the school is notified of a confirmed case.

Students with two negative tests and no symptoms will be able to return to the classroom after as little as 24 hours of self-isolation, unless otherwise advised by Public Health. They will be required to continue testing daily until the end of the period, as prescribed by Public Health, to continue attending school.

“Unvaccinated students will be provided with a five-to-15 day supply of rapid tests, depending on the last possible exposure date to the confirmed case,” said Dr. Jennifer Russell, N.B. Chief Medical Officer of Health during Tuesday’s COVID-19 update.

It’s a policy that Ella Steeves doesn’t agree with.

“If you are a close contact at all, I think we should all be self-isolated to protect the non-vaccinated people, and that we should get tested just to put our mind at ease,” says Steeves.

When asked why only non-vaccinated students are able to take part in the newly implemented program, Dr. Russell called it an ‘evolving process’.

“We will continue to work hard to improve whatever needs to be improved in this plan, because we’re in constant discussion with education, and the medical officer of health have input regularly on identifying risks and managing those risks,” says Russell.

Steeves says she will still have concerns until the program evolves to include any student wanting to be tested.

“I’ve been scared, just because I don’t want to give anyone I care about the virus,” says Steeves.

The province says students who are vaccinated or are participating in rapid testing who have no symptoms may also continue to engage in extracurricular activities as they regularly would.