BC Children's Hospital and the Vancouver School District are working together to give students easy, quick access to COVID-19 testing this spring.
Starting this month, schools in the Vancouver School District will be able to provide any students who develop symptoms of the virus while at school with a BC Children's Hospital mouth rinse and gargle sample collection kit to take home.
After collecting the sample at home—accomplished by swishing, gargling and spitting a small amount of saline into a funnel— families can then drop it off to the secure BC Children’s location that is listed in the kit, or to any LifeLabs location.
“We began to work with the school system to try to make testing children for COVID-19 more feasible for families,” said BC Children’s Medical Microbiologist Dr. David Goldfarb in a news release issued Friday. “We found that school-aged children were generally quite good at collecting these samples on their own with some parental support and this facilitated a home-based collection approach.”
BC Children’s will initially be handing out a total of 1,200 kits to the district. Each elementary and secondary school is set to receive 12 kits, with more being sent as needed. The hospital said it is also looking at offering kits to other districts across the province.
The saline mouth rinse and gargle method, initially introduced in B.C. last September, serves as a more comfortable testing alternative for children than the typical nasopharyngeal swabs. Families who made use of the take-home tests during a four-month field test in ten Vancouver schools said collecting the sample in a familiar place was not as stressful as having to take their unwell child to a collection centre, according to the release.
"The purpose of this pilot phase was to distribute the kits to the schools and families, have families complete the sample collection at home and see if the samples would arrive at the lab," BC Children's Hospital explained in the release. "They did and the field test was a success!"
Parents are still asked to monitor their children for symptoms of COVID-19 before students attend school each day. If students do have any symptoms, they should remain at home and access testing at a collection centre, if advised.
Children should not eat, drink (even water), chew gum, brush their teeth, smoke or vape for at least one hour before the mouth rinse and gargle test. According to the BCCDC, they should also avoid practising the swish, gargle and spit method two hours or sooner before the test.