'A huge mistake': Families from four schools attend one asymptomatic testing clinic
Some parents and students are raising concerns about a voluntary school-based COVID-19 testing clinic in York Region that brought families from four different schools into the gym at Stouffville District Secondary School Thursday.
TORONTO -- Some parents and students are raising concerns about a voluntary school-based COVID-19 testing clinic in York Region that brought families from four different schools into the gym at Stouffville District Secondary School Thursday.
“I made a huge mistake,” mom Julie Stevens said, who brought her nine and 12-year-olds boys for the testing. “I shouldn’t have taken my kids in.”
Officials with York Region sent letters to Stouffville District Secondary School, Oscar Peterson Public School, Wendat Village Public School, and St. Brigid Catholic Elementary School indicating students and their immediate family members and staff could receive a COVID-19 test with limited wait times. There were 45 minute intervals created between each school.
Stevens said her sons’ school has had a positive case and thought it would prudent to have them checked.
She said she waited in a line outdoors for an hour, before waiting another 45 minutes in a line that snaked through the gym. She said her youngest son is on the autism spectrum and as a result was fast-tracked.
Video posted on social media shows dozens of people in the gym.
“I haven’t been anywhere this ‘peopley’ in over 10 months. It was really busy,” Stevens said. “When we got home with the pizza, I thought, ‘what did we just do?’ Now I have to call my parents and say, ‘stay even further off the porch’. If kids my get sick I know where they got it.”
York Region remains in the red zone until Monday. The limit on an indoor gathering at is five people.
Dr. Karim Kurji is York Region’s Medical Officer of Health. He said schools are except from the indoor restrictions, and to ensure safety, testing was done in the largest schools, which is usually the secondary schools and their gyms. Entry and exits were also in different directions.
Kurji said the model of the clinic, to have multiple schools at one location was organized by Ontario Health.
“If you look a the video very carefully, you will see that most of them are masked and most of them are distanced. It is possible that some may not have been as physically distanced as we would have preferred and we are working with Ontario Health to be able to improve the testing experience,” Kurji said.
High school students who spoke with CTV News Toronto had different perspectives on the testing session.
“I think there could have been more testing tables and there may have been there wasn’t any social distancing,” Stouffville District Secondary School student Kal Marion said.
“Everyone seemed pretty safe, it seemed like a pretty good system,” said another student Sage Aranha O’Brien.
Kurji said Ontario Health found it difficult to arrange the testing by appointment and it’s the same method that was carried out in Peel Region.
Officials also highlighted results from asymptomatic testing conducted in York Region since Dec. 3, saying 1513 test results have been done with 15 so far coming back positive.
Last week, families from five schools attended Keswick High School for the asymptomatic testing clinic. Next week, clinics with multiple schools are planned at Cardinal Carter and King Secondary.
York Region Public Health said Ontario Health is responsible for testing on site including the staffing and operations.
“However we are all working together to find ways to enhance testing - which is proving to have a high level of demand,” it said. “The intention is to continue with testing as there is a need for these opportunities.”
“If there are improvements to the way clinics are run, we will implement these to ensure individuals coming for testing can do so safely.”
“The Ministry of Education, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Ontario Health, is continuing to work with school boards and public health units to support them in the implementation of targeted testing,” said a statement from Ministry of Education.