Ontario is expanding asymptomatic COVID-19 testing in schools. Here’s what you need to know

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Asymptomatic testing for COVID-19 in schools is ramping up across Ontario, following a directive from Education Minister Stephen Lecce earlier this month.  

In this expansion of an earlier testing pilot effort in the fall, the province is calling for larger school boards to test at least five per cent of their elementary and secondary students weekly, with a goal of reaching about two per cent of the student population in the province. The campaign began with schools in areas such as Ottawa, Toronto, Peel and York Region over the past few weeks. 

We asked experts to explain what’s behind this push, what’s been blocking families from testing and how the new variants factor into this initiative.

Why is this being introduced?

Dr. Janine McCready of Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto was among the infectious disease physicians who worked with public health and education officials to conduct full-scale COVID-19 testing in schools that had outbreaks last fall. 

At one school in a hotspot area, the team discovered between four and five per cent of students without symptoms nonetheless tested positive for COVID-19, McCready said. That underlines the value of being proactive with asymptomatic testing, as another layer of protection against the coronavirus…

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