Non-profit hands out COVID-19 rapid test kits in hard-hit Fraser Valley communities

Parts of the Fraser Valley with high COVID-19 transmission rates are getting an added layer of protection in the fight against the virus.

Take-home rapid antigen test kits are being given out to people who live in the Fraser Health region. Each kit contains 25 nasal swab tests, which provide results in approximately 15 minutes.

Hundreds of the Health-Canada-approved kits were distributed for free in Chilliwack on Saturday morning at a pop-up event organized by the Engaged Communities Canada Society (ECCS). The group, which helps underserved communities access support services, handed out the kits in partnership with the Fraser Health Authority.

“This project is a true reflection of what the virus is doing,” said Upkar Tatlay, founder of ECCS.

The kits are only available to people who live in the Fraser Health region, which stretches westward to Burnaby, and eastward to Hope.

“Based on information the health authority is getting, they’re providing guidance to us to then go into the community and hit those hotspots,” Tatlay explained.

In late September, the province announced tighter COVID-19 restrictions for the Fraser East local health area, which includes Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Mission, Hope and Agassiz-Harrison. For the past week, Tatlay’s group has been handing out test kits in the area, much to the pleasure of residents.

“It’s amazing. I am so, so happy we’re able to access these today,” said Colleen Alton, a Grade 1 teacher in Chilliwack. She says having access to rapid tests will allow her to see her parents regularly.

“They’re older, and with me teaching Grade 1, I’m nervous (visiting them). I don’t visit them often enough.”

“It’s really important that if I am self-monitoring and start showing symptoms, I can quickly take a test and get results at home,” said Liam Archer, a teacher at Chilliwack Secondary School. Archer says access to rapid tests will give him peace of mind that he is not exposing any of his students or colleagues to the virus.

On Saturday, many of those picking up rapid test kits were parents of children under the age of 12, who are still ineligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. With no school-based rapid testing program in B.C., parents like Mirjam Gregoire decided to take initiative.

“I work at a long-term care facility and we use (rapid tests) on a daily basis,” she said. “They are so handy, and since my kids are in school, preschool and daycare, I thought I’d like to have them around the house.”

According to the ECCS, the kits are intended for people who are partially vaccinated, ineligible for a vaccine, or at higher risk of contracting the virus.

“There’s really no specific category of individual,” said Tatlay. “We’re just making sure those people who need the tests are getting them.”

For updates on future pop-ups, check the ECCS Facebook page