News Release
October 25, 2021

Every public school in Toronto will have a supply of PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test kits available for use by end of the week – the first program of its kind in Ontario. Take-home testing kits can be used if and when a student presents with symptoms of COVID-19 or after another student or staff member in their class has tested positive for COVID-19.

PCR tests are the gold standard of COVID-19 tests with the highest accuracy rate, compared to other self-administered tests. By ensuring PCR tests are available in every school, students and staff have access to an easy to use testing kit, allowing for positive cases to be more easily identified before COVID-19 can spread and cause additional exposures to families or other students in schools.

Earlier in 2021, PCR take-home testing ran as a pilot project by Hospital for Sick Children, (SickKids) Michael Garron Hospital (MGH), and Women’s College Hospital (WCH) and in partnership with Toronto Public Health (TPH), MonAvenir Catholic School Board, Toronto Catholic District School Board, Toronto District School Board and Viamonde School Board. Because of this successful partnership and pilot, SickKids, MGH and WCH were able to expand the PCR testing availability and distribution to the whole city.

The take-home PCR test is administered with a simple mouth-nose swab (i.e. swabbing the tongue, cheek and inside the nostril), or through collecting saliva, instead of the nasopharyngeal swab (NP) commonly used for COVID-19 testing. It is easier for a student to self-administer this COVID-19 test.

Once the test is complete, families can drop off the COVID-19 test at a local pop-up testing site or select schools for processing. The turnaround time for results is approximately 24 hours to 48 hours. If a child tests positive for COVID-19, the parent or caregiver will be notified directly for follow-up, advice and next steps.

TPH, along with Toronto’s hospital and school board partners, aim to support all Toronto schools in their ability to operate as safely as possible and respond quickly to suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19.

”We’re doing everything we can as a city to help school boards and the provincial government keep schools open and as safe as possible. Toronto Public Health is ensuring PCR tests are available in every school so positive cases can be more easily identified before COVID-19 can spread and cause additional exposures to families or other students in schools.”

– Mayor John Tory

“Making sure that our schools are as safe as possible is critical to containing the transmission of COVID-19 in our city. By ensuring that students and families have access to take-home PCR tests, Toronto Public Health is helping to stop the spread of COVID in classrooms before it starts. This will go a long way towards keeping kids safe, as we continue to plan and prepare for Health Canada’s approval of COVID-19 vaccines for children under 12 years of age.”

– Councillor Joe Cressy, Chair of the Toronto Board of Health

This first-of-its kind program in the Province of Ontario is a huge step forward in protecting children and schools from COVID-19. This partnership is a true Team Toronto approach, which helps us respond to a positive COVID-19 case as quickly as possible and prevent further transmission.

– Dr. Eileen de Villa, Medical Officer of Health

“Easy access to COVID-19 testing is an essential element of our pandemic response in Toronto. The take-home PCR test kits help reduce the spread of COVID-19 by making it easier for families to get tested quickly and minimize impact on school disruptions by providing faster results. In addition to upcoming vaccinations for school-aged children, testing is one of the best tools we have to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

– Dr. Janine McCready, Infectious Diseases physician, Michael Garron Hospital

“Low barrier access and non-invasive testing are critical components of fighting COVID-19 in our school communities. Through this critical program and partnership – and by ensuring PCR take-home test kits are available at every school in Toronto – we make the process as simple as possible for families to test for COVID-19.”

– Dr. Julia Orkin, Medical Director for Integrated Community Partnerships, SickKids

“We know that early detection is critical in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Throughout the course of our pandemic response, we have been working with school boards and community partners to provide vaccinations, testing and surveillance. Women’s College Hospital is proud to continue this work and is currently supporting over 100 schools with PCR testing so we can keep children, their families and the community safe.”

– Heather McPherson, President and CEO, Women’s College Hospital

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