Carlton 1 of 3 schools announced for on-site COVID-19 testing

Carlton Comprehensive Collegiate is the current location of the Saskatchewan Rivers DLC. /Daily Herald File Photo

Carlton Comprehensive High School in Prince Albert will be one of the first three locations for voluntary in school testing for COVID-19 beginning during the week of September. In an announcement from the province on Friday the campus was selected as one of three initial sites.

“We are honoured to be chosen by the SHA as a system with strong practices and a history of effective partnerships with Health initiatives.  It will be an extra demand on our staff and resources but it is a privilege to support public health in the community and provide voluntary testing for Carlton students whose families who chose to participate,” Saskatchewan Rivers School Division director of education Robert Bratvold said.

The division will arrange and provide for voluntary testing of any Carlton students who wish to participate. Forms will be provided next week to students who choose to participate and testing will occur on Sept. 17 and 18.

The two dates are because of the staggered re-entry protocol at the school.

In a letter to parents the division said that more details will be provided to Carlton students and families by the school

The other schools are Campbell Collegiate in Regina on Wednesday, Sept. 16 and Holy Cross in Saskatoon on Thursday, Sept. 17.

“If your child attends one of these three schools watch for consent forms coming home for signature by Wednesday, September 9. Information on other voluntary school testing will be provided in the near future. This voluntary testing will be conducted as part of additional monitoring in school settings but please do not wait for in school testing after experiencing symptoms. Testing is available and teachers are a priority group for testing. Our testing strategy also includes a flexibility to conduct testing in school in the event of an outbreak. As we return to school and as we move more and more activities indoors all residents should be monitoring for symptoms. Together we can limit the transmission of COVID-19 in our communities,” Health Minister Jim Reiter said during a press conference Friday.

In the same press conference Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab reminded people to reset their bubbles after the Labour Day long weekend.

“I have had the pleasure of visiting a number of schools both high schools and elementary schools in the Regina area and I think it is really reassuring to see all of the hard work staff have been putting in this past week to get ready for school,” Shahab said.

Throughout the press conference he reminded everyone to continue what has been so successful in the summer as the fall comes including mask use, which is part of school plans in both Prince Albert school divisions.

“We already see a lot of mask use in indoor public spaces and that is something that we need to continue to practice and have a mask on hand when you are in a public place an cannot keep a two meter distance, put it on for that period of time,” Shahab said.

Another theme from Shahab was reminding people not to go out if they are not feeling well. They should also not take advantage of the school testing sites if they are symptomatic.

“If we have an concerns we should get tested while we are at home and for most people that is by calling the 811. And I think that’s going to be important throughout the next weeks and months,” Shahab said.

The new school testing sites are another safeguard as schools reopen. Shahab said that the effective reproductive rate is now 0.5 to 0.7.

“Obviously a case cluster or a contact at home they will get tested through 811 but if there is a need for additional staff in school who are otherwise well that access will be improved by offering additional testing in the school during school hours or for young children after school hours for children or their families. So that is the approach, but I think it is a really important point that testing that is happening at schools the children that are unwell should come to school to get tested. They should stay home and get tested through 811 or through their health care providers,” he said.

Part of reentry plans for September 8 includes some monitoring before returning to schools

“Every morning we should check with our children, how they are feeling, and if the child is unwell they shouldn’t go to school,” Shahab said.

Shahab explained that the province needs to continue the positives as case counts have remained low for much of the summer months.

SHA CEO Scott Livingstone explained that the province has been working to expand testing capacity to reach their stated goal of 4,000 tests per day and this and drive-through testing adds to the challenges.

“If we had 3,000 or 4,000 swabs come in today we would be able to meet that target but what we are trying to do now and what we don’t have. We currently don’t have capacity to be seven days a week at 4,000 but that is what we are actively working on,” Livingstone said.

Shahab explained that the province needs to continue the positives as case counts have remained low for much of the summer months.

“I also want to again say that this is really a time for us to pause and congratulate ourselves. We have been through almost six months of the pandemic. It has been quite a different time for all of us but we have done so well, our case numbers are so low and this really is a time to pause and congratulate ourselves and move confidently forward as we go back to work and back to school,” Shahab said.

Drive-through testing available in Saskatoon and Regina next week

The province announced two sites in Saskatoon and Regina for drive-through testing. Drive-through testing sites will be open September 8 in Regina and September 10 in Saskatoon, in addition to the testing and assessment centres currently open.

“Collectively, Regina and Saskatoon account for half of our provincial testing each day and drive through testing sites are one of the ways the SHA is expanding the options for people to get tested for COVID-19. This format will certainly be more convenient for more residents,” Reiter said Friday.

Regina’s site opening on Tuesday, September 9 will be at the International Trade Centre at Evraz Place – Hall C and available Tuesdays and Thursdays – 4 p.m. – 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

In Saskatoon the site will open on Thursday, Sept. 10 at 3630 Thatcher Avenue, which is located near the SaskTel Centre. Hours will be Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 12 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

They are going to test the two sites and monitor the project to see how successful it is.

The province is also attempting to make wait times as short as they can according to Livingstone.

There is also a possibility of pop up testing sites in rural locations if these are successful.

For drive-through testing, there is no referral required from HealthLine 811 or a family physician or nurse practitioner to access the drive-through location. You do require a valid Saskatchewan Health Card for each person getting tested. A Canadian Armed Forces number or Interim Federal Health identification will also be accepted.

“To respect patient privacy and safety we ask that families only bring people within their immediate family or family bubble,” Reiter said.

A mask will be required for the registration process. The drive-through sites will be first come, first served so there may be wait times. You must wait in your vehicle. There are no public washrooms available at these sites.