Hamilton Public Health will be at two local schools this weekend (Feb. 13) as part of a government initiative to bring voluntary COVID-19 testing to areas where school boards and public health units identify a need.
Staff will be on-site from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., at both Bishop Ryan Catholic Secondary School and Orchard Park Secondary School to test only staff and students who are asymptomatic.
Additionally, students and staff of vulnerable neighbourhood schools, Eastdale Elementary School and Winona Elementary School, can voluntarily register for a rapid test at Orchard Park.
“These areas were identified as neighbourhoods where the uptake of testing is low, COVID-19 rates are higher, and there has been a history of school outbreak,” said Public Health.
The voluntary registration process can be completed at the respective school board websites.
“We as a community recognize the importance of the return to in-person learning for our students in Hamilton,” said Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, Medical Officer of Health. “Along with other vital health and safety measures, such as daily screening, masking and increased hand hygiene, targeted asymptomatic testing at our schools is an added tool we may use where relevant for our community.”
“We will continue to work collaboratively with our school board partners and the Ontario government to support the recommended enhanced health and safety measures to help safeguard our schools and community as we move forward.”
The targeted testing initiative does not apply to any students or staff who have recently been advised by Hamilton Public Health Services to self-isolate or get COVID-testing at a local assessment centre, or for students who are enrolled in full-time online learning.
“We are pleased to learn asymptomatic COVID-19 testing is starting in Hamilton,” added Dawn Danko, Chair, Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board. “Testing is one more enhanced public health measure that we can use to identify the virus in our community and help make our schools safe places for in-person learning. We look forward to continuing our partnership with Hamilton Public Health Services and supporting targeted testing.”
This initiative is part of the Ontario Government’s targeted voluntary testing program for asymptomatic students and staff.
Hamilton Public Health Services says they will use this initiative in partnership with local school boards to consider how these types of tests may be useful in the future.
“Throughout this pandemic, our priority concern has been the health, safety and well-being of our students and staff,” concluded Patrick J. Daly, Chair, Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board. “This testing initiative, along with other recent health and safety measures, are welcome additions and provide another layer of protection as our schools reopen for in-person learning.”
“We want to express our deep appreciation to Hamilton Public Health Services and the Ministry of Education for not only supporting the return to school but ensuring that all possible safeguards are in place to keep our students and staff healthy and safe.”