Every public school in Toronto will have a supply of PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test kits available for use by end of the week – the first program of its kind in Ontario, the city announced this morning.

“This first-of-its kind program in the Province of Ontario is a huge step forward in protecting children and schools from COVID-19,” said the city’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa. “This partnership is a true Team Toronto approach, which helps us respond to a positive COVID-19 case as quickly as possible and prevent further transmission.

Take-home testing kits can be used if and when a student presents with symptoms of COVID-19 or after another student or staff member in their class has tested positive for COVID-19.

The take-home PCR test is administered with a simple mouth-nose swab (i.e. swabbing the tongue, cheek and inside the nostril), or through collecting saliva, instead of the nasopharyngeal swab (NP) commonly used for COVID-19 testing. It is easier for a student to self-administer this COVID-19 test.

Once the test is complete, families can drop off the COVID-19 test at a local pop-up testing site or select schools for processing. The turnaround time for results is approximately 24 hours to 48 hours. If a child tests positive for COVID-19, the parent or caregiver will be notified directly for follow-up, advice and next steps.

TPH, along with Toronto’s hospital and school board partners, aim to support all Toronto schools in their ability to operate as safely as possible and respond quickly to suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19.

PCR tests are considered the gold standard of COVID-19 tests with the highest accuracy rate, compared to other self-administered tests. Earlier in 2021, PCR take-home testing ran as a pilot project by Hospital for Sick Children, (SickKids) Michael Garron Hospital (MGH), and Women’s College Hospital (WCH) and in partnership with Toronto Public Health (TPH), MonAvenir Catholic School Board, Toronto Catholic District School Board, Toronto District School Board and Viamonde School Board. Because of this successful partnership and pilot, SickKids, MGH and WCH were able to expand the PCR testing availability and distribution to the whole city.

“Toronto Public Health is ensuring PCR tests are available in every school so positive cases can be more easily identified before COVID-19 can spread and cause additional exposures to families or other students in schools, ” said Mayor John Tory.

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