Where are the rapid tests?

Re: COVID-19 at 6 schools

An April 2 news release stated Interior Health has confirmed COVID-19 exposures at six Central Okanagan Public Schools. This news release is the 95th since October 25, 2020 to mention COVID-19 exposures at Central Okanagan Public Schools.

They all include the words: "The safety and well-being of students, families and staff remains our highest priority. Central Okanagan Public Schools will continue to implement the strict health and safety protocols and procedures that are in place so students and staff can continue to attend school as safely as possible.”

If all public schools in the province were really implementing “strict" health and safety protocols and procedures, this would include mandatory mask wearing for all students from Kindergarten to Grade 12. (An exception could be made for the small percentage of students who may find it too difficult to wear a mask for any length of time because of behavioural, psychological, or medical reasons. If this is indeed the case, a doctor’s note or letter should accompany each exemption.)

At present, the updated B.C. government website reads: "All K to 12 staff and all students in grades 4 to 12 are required to wear non-medical masks in all indoor areas, including: At their work stations (desks), On school buses, [and] Within and outside leaning groups.”

The motto of Central Okanagan Public Schools is “Together We Learn.” Some things I've learned from reading the COVID-19 Exposure news releases:

1. If there is a single COVID-19 exposure at a specific school, it will state it.

2. If there are exposures (plural) at a specific school, it will never state how many exposures; all we know for certain is there is more than one exposure.

3. It will never delineate how many exposures at a specific school are students, and how many exposures are staff members.

The B.C. government website states “Public health fulfills its role through a wide variety of activities, such as … "Reporting on the health of British Columbians."

One of the definitions of “public” is: "perceived or existing in open view." On a scale of 0 to 5, how open would you rate this type of released health information?

The BC School Tracker website contains a wealth of information. It is searchable, with filters to allow one to view by city, school district, health region, etc.

The federal government has procured more than 40 million COVID-19 rapid tests from various companies. Although rapid tests aren’t as precise as lab-based PCR tests, they produce quick results. Over 19 million rapid tests have been sent to the provinces and territories. Last February, Prime Minister Trudeau said “some" quick tests are being used, but if these tests continue to sit on shelves across the country, the government may start sending them directly to pharmacies.

Also last February, the Biden administration is working with Australian company Ellume to provide more of its fully at-home COVID-19 quick tests to the United States. Andy Slavitt, White House COVID-19 senior adviser, said the Ellume test can detect COVID-19 with 95% accuracy within roughly 15 minutes. The price of the test is about $30 US, but Slavitt said "costs will come down, only when we can get to that mass production and scale."

Why hasn’t Dr. Bonnie Henry and the Ministry of Health allowed at least some of the federally-provided quick tests to be made available to schools, residential care home workers and front line workers?

David Buckna, Kelowna

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