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Key focus for rapid tests will be K-12 schools in B.C., top doctor says ahead of students' return

A shipment of rapid tests is expected to arrive on the West Coast late next week, and many of those tests are already earmarked for a specific group.

Speaking at a news conference Friday, provincial officials said early batches of the much-sought-after tests will be designated for B.C.'s schools.

The COVID-19 tests will be used for symptomatic teachers and staff at K-12 schools, Dr. Bonnie Henry said.

They'll primarily be used to help officials understand where outbreaks and clusters are happening, so health officials can support B.C. schools.

The provincial health officer said protocols are still being developed for self-testing, and that the plan is to expand the testing program into the school communities, for symptomatic children and their family members, eventually.

When parents do use at-home rapid tests on their children, they're asked to contact public health of positive results to help with effective information sharing. They're also asked to contact the child's school.

She did not give a timeframe, saying it was subject to when enough tests are available.

For now, health-care workers, residents of remote Indigenous communities and long-term care facilities and others are also targets of the rapid tests.

Tests for businesses and other organizations will be made available as the provincial supply increases.

While B.C. has received more than one million of the rapid tests, the majority cannot be used at home or self-administered, Henry said.

Henry, Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside and Health Minister Adrian Dix gave an update at morning news conference Friday and attempted to assure parents that schools are still the safest place for kids to be.

There are very high rates of immunization in staff, Henry said, though she acknowledged that there is a lot of anxiety about students' return.

Some kids are already back, but most return on Monday.

This week, schools began with a phased return of children of front-line workers and students with special needs. This restart plan was meant to give school staff time to implement more safety measures, and make plans for situations where several teachers or other staff members are off sick at once.

Those contingency plans are now in place, Henry said.

"Having said that, it's always going to be a challenge, and we're going to have to adapt to things as they arise," she said.

"School is essential… We've also seen the remarkable resilience and adaptability of our school communities, and I know that's what is going to help us get through what will undoubtedly be some rocky times in the next few weeks." Top Stories

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