Parents in the NWT whose children did not return home with rapid Covid-19 tests as intended before the holidays should ask their school board, the territorial government says.
Dr Kami Kandola, the territory’s chief public health officer, has said all parents should give their children a rapid test on January 9, the day before school is due to resume in person in most NWT communities.
While Dr Kandola says thousands of rapid tests were sent home with students in December, some parents say those kits are nowhere to be found or have already been used.
With rapid tests not readily available in NWT stores or clinics, parents have asked how to acquire more.
On Tuesday, the NWT’s Covid-19 Secretariat told Cabin Radio the responsibility for providing tests to parents lay with school districts.
Parents who believe their child did not return home with rapid tests despite attending a participating school should “reach out to their school board directly to inquire whether additional tests are available and make arrangements for pickup,” secretariat spokesperson Richard Makohoniuk said by email.
After this article was first published, Makohoniuk emphasized that the advice applied only to parents whose children attend a school participating in the rapid test program, and whose children did not bring any tests home.
Only certain schools opted in to the rapid testing program, Makohoniuk initially said, providing a list that did not include any schools in the Dehcho and only one, Hay River’s École Boréale, in the South Slave.
All schools in Yellowknife took part in the program, he wrote (though not schools in Dettah and Ndilǫ), as did schools in the Tłı̨chǫ and in the Sahtu communities of Colville Lake, Délı̨nę, and Fort Good Hope.
Tests were also sent for schools in the Beaufort Delta communities of Aklavik, Fort McPherson, Inuvik, Paulatuk, Sachs Harbour, Tuktoyaktuk, and Ulukhaktok.
In a separate email after first publication of this report, Makohoniuk said remaining schools in Hay River alongside schools in Fort Smith, Fort Resolution, and Łútsël K’é had also been sent rapid tests before the holidays.
“Schools that participated in this voluntary program distributed rapid tests to students,” Makohoniuk wrote.
“If schools were able to assist with the test kit preparation, they were given enough tests to distribute two tests per student prior to the holidays. In instances where that additional support was not available, schools were allocated one test per student.
“All schools across the NWT were offered the opportunity to participate, and 24 schools and communities opted in to the program.”
The YK1 school district told Cabin Radio parents should contact schools directly for access to tests. Yellowknife Catholic Schools said it had no more tests but would notify parents when they become available.
The Beaufort Delta’s divisional education council has said test kits are available by emailing the superintendent, while staff are handing out kits from January 4 until January 7 in all of the council’s communities.
A representative of the Sahtu’s divisional education council said the three Sahtu schools participating in the program had no more tests to distribute, adding they had been told the GNWT was trying to procure more.
Instructions were not provided for parents who either cannot access a test or whose children’s school did not participate in the program.
It was not clear how, in practice, a school board would be able to distinguish between a parent whose children brought no tests home and a parent who needed more tests because they had used their allotment.
Dr Kandola said on Tuesday a January 9 rapid test would help to limit Covid-19’s spread in schools as the territory’s caseload rapidly increases following holiday travel and the onset of the Omicron variant.
“Testing will help catch asymptomatic or mild Covid-19 infection before they enter the classroom and cause an outbreak and lengthier school disruptions,” she told reporters.
McKenna Hadley-Burke contributed reporting.
Update: January 5, 2022 – 11:46 MT. This article has been amended to reflect the narrowness of the territory’s advice regarding rapid tests. Previously, the article suggested parents who had run out of tests could go back to a school board for more. In fact, the territorial government says, only parents whose children received no rapid tests before the holidays – despite attending a participating school – should contact their school board. There was no immediate advice for other parents who require extra tests for their kids.