What asymptomatic testing could reveal in Manitoba classrooms
WINNIPEG -- Public health officials say keeping kids in school is important and transmission inside the classroom is low, but this information comes from testing symptomatic people and investigating contacts, and asymptomatic testing may tell us more.
On Tuesday Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's chief public health officer, said public health is looking for ways to make sure learning in schools can continue, adding the province will do what it can to make it safer for the students.
In Ontario, 19 cases were recently found in one elementary school. They were discovered through a pilot project doing asymptomatic testing in high-risk area schools.
Roussin said there are no plans to do asymptomatic testing in schools in Manitoba.
"We know different regions have different approaches, different places where they're using some of their rapid testing," Roussin said. "We certainly will follow the outcomes of a number of those areas."
Epidemiologist Cynthia Carr, the founder of EPI Research, said point-of-care rapid tests are not ideal for asymptomatic testing because there would a higher rate for false negatives. She said what might be an option in schools is the 'pool testing' approach using the PCR Gold Standard test.
"I'll take say 10 samples, I'll pool them together, we'll test that pool and if we get a positive then those 10 tests would get tested individually," Carr said.
The Manitoba Teachers' Society President James Bedford said he supports asymptomatic testing in schools when there is capacity for it.
"One would certainly support asymptomatic testing, but not at the expense of rapid testing," he said.
Bedford said rapid testing would help schools respond quicker to cases and get teachers back to work sooner.
Roussin said rapid tests aren't as sensitive as the PCR lab test used every day in Manitoba. Still, some rapid tests are coming to the province and a plan for where they'll be used is in the works.
"We just have to figure out how to use these tests and where to put them appropriately," Roussin said.