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West Van schools to offer at-home COVID gargle test kits

Families of West Vancouver kids who get sick with COVID symptoms at school will be offered the test kits
child saline gargle bc covid-19 test screenshot phsa
Students in West Vancouver will be offered a take-home COVID test kit if they get sick at school. Provincial Health Services Authority

Families in West Vancouver whose kids come down with COVID symptoms while at school will soon have access to easy-to-use gargle test kits.

West Vancouver school district is signing on to a project with B.C. Children’s Hospital that will see a number of at-home COVID test kits kept at local schools and offered to families when they come to pick up their kids who develop symptoms during the school day.

The project was first piloted in several schools in the Vancouver School District, where kits have also recently been made available.

The test is the same one that has been offered to kids at testing centres since September.

After parents supervise the child to get a mouth rinse and spit sample at home, they will be able to drop off the test kit at any LifeLabs location.

Each school is expected to receive 12 of the kits, with more available if needed.

Superintendent Chris Kennedy said the school district hopes to have the kits available in West Vancouver schools within the next week.

Dr. David Goldfarb, leader of the project at B.C. Children’s Hospital, said the at-home test has proved reliable, and is easy for most school-aged children to complete. At-home testing is more convenient for some families and less intimidating for some children than visiting a COVID-19 testing centre, he said.

Some families may not have vehicles and find it harder to get to a drive-through testing centre, such as the one on Lloyd Avenue, he added.

Test results dropped off at LifeLabs locations are generally turned around within a day, and families are informed of results in the same way they would be if the test were done through a COVID testing centre, he said.

In the week that the tests have been made more widely available in Vancouver schools, 53 of the at-home tests have been used, he said.

Goldfarb said he doesn’t expect a lot of families to use the tests – as children are more likely to first develop symptoms at home.

The news about the test kits comes as the number of COVID cases has recently spiked on the North Shore and a large number of schools have sent out notices of students being exposed to classmates or staff who have tested positive for the virus.

Staff and teachers in both North and West Vancouver are now eligible to receive vaccines, as part of a program targeting front-line workers in hard-hit areas.

Kennedy said over 50 per cent of school staff in West Vancouver have now been vaccinated. Teachers aged 40 to 65 are also signing up for the AstraZeneca vaccine available through pharmacies, he said.

Goldfarb said there are several school districts in Vancouver Coastal Health and the Fraser Health regions that have also requested the at-home test kits.

Children should not eat, drink (even water), chew gum, brush their teeth, smoke or vape for at least one hour before the mouth rinse and gargle test. According to the BC Centre for Disease Control, they should also avoid practising the swish, gargle and spit method two hours or sooner before the test.