Rapid tests coming to 2 Montreal high schools with hopes of detecting COVID-19 faster
Can rapid COVID-19 tests make high schools safer? That's exactly what Dr. Caroline Quach is looking to find out — deploying the tests at two Montreal high schools to see if they can be used to curb transmission.
"If we're able to show quickly that there's an impact, then we are going to quickly notify the Ministry of Health and they are going to see if they want to deploy it in more schools, not as a project, but as a public health measure," said Quach, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist and medical microbiologist at Sainte-Justine hospital.
Quach is heading the project, randomly testing 25 per cent of staff and students once a week at Calixa Lavallée in Montréal-Nord and at the Pensionnat du Saint-Nom-de-Marie in Outremont.
The goal of the project is to determine how effective these rapid tests are in detecting and preventing the spread of COVID-19 in schools.
Quach said the project will also look at the impact of bringing students and teachers back to school after seven days versus 14 days. The rapid testing will be used to monitor those brought back from isolation early.
The first step was to get approval from the government last month, and now the school administrations are seeking consent from parents.
Schools ready to help advance science
With her own child attending Pensionnat du Saint-Nom-de-Marie, a private school, and its proximity to the hospital, Quach said it was a natural choice. She has a working relationship with the school already and wants to use that relationship to help further the project.
The school's director, Yves Petit, expects most parents will consent to the program:
"We already have consent from 10 per cent of parents," he said.
Dominic Besnerd, principal at Calixa-Lavallée, said the school community looks forward to participating in a project that could advance science.
The rapid tests will begin the last week of January and Quach says the government will be regularly briefed on their efficiency.