WINNIPEG — A new pilot program will see Manitoba teachers get access to rapid COVID-19 testing starting next week.
Called Fast Pass, staff working directly with students will be offered appointment-based rapid tests beginning January 18.
“Offering a dedicated testing stream to people working in schools will allow us to quickly identify any cases of COVID-19, enabling faster contact tracing and helping us to reduce spread in our schools and community,” said Health and Seniors Care Minister Heather Stefanson.
“The launch of our first Fast Pass site will provide our education system with the reassurance that there is a dedicated testing option to support timely access to COVID-19 results.”
The first Fast Pass site, operated by Dynacare, will be located at 1066 Nairn Avenue in Winnipeg and will initially be open to staff working in schools from the Winnipeg, Seven Oaks, River East Transcona, Seine River, and Hanover school divisions. Staff from other schools and school divisions can access the site in February, with further details to follow.
Other qualified individuals to receive the rapid test include bus drivers, custodians and child care staff working in school-based early learning and child care facilities.
The province says those eligible must be symptomatic, identified as a close contact as a result of an exposure at school, or have a symptomatic household member. Identification and proof of employment will need to be shown at the time of appointment.
Appointment bookings for the site will begin on Sunday, January 17. Rapid tests will be conducted daily from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will operate in tandem with the drive-thru testing site at the same location with a dedicated entrance and appointment stream for Fast Pass clients.
The province will limit Fast Pass tests to 20 to 40 slots per day, and will ramp up to about 80 by the second week, with the long-term goal to perform 160 tests per day.
A positive test result will be available online the same day as the test. Those awaiting a test result will still be required to self-isolate, along with everyone else in their household.
The program has plans to expand to Brandon and Winkler, following a period of evaluation in Winnipeg.
$40 million for rapid testing
The province announced in December it had placed a $40-million order for Songbird Hyris tests, which will help deliver 45,000 tests a month. The new Fast Pass program will use the Songbird Hyris bCUBE rapid test and be administered by those trained to do rapid testing through Red River College’s micro-credential program.
A similar rapid testing pilot project is also underway for staff working at selected personal care home facilities.