Nearly 900 Sask. students agree to voluntary COVID-19 testing in schools

Nearly 900 Sask. students agree to voluntary COVID-19 testing in schools
Nearly 900 Sask. students agree to voluntary COVID-19 testing in schools

In Saskatchewan, nearly 900 students have consented to be tested for COVID-19 at three high schools.

Testing began Wednesday at Campbell Collegiate in Regina. More testing will be done at Saskatoon’s Holy Cross High School on Thursday and Carlton Comprehensive Public High School in Prince Albert on Thursday and Friday.

Of the three schools, Holy Cross High School in Saskatoon had the largest enrollment, with more than half of all students who gave consent coming from there.

Saskatchewan’s chief medical officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab, said Thursday that from what he’s heard, the testing process has gone “pretty smoothly.”

“This shows that there is flexibility in how testing teams can be deployed and help assess whether there is a problem in a school or a community, or both,” he said.

Scott Livingstone, CEO of the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA), said the voluntary testing was an opportunity for the SHA and school divisions to work through the process together and resolve any issues.

“I think we had a good sample of students,” he said Thursday. “Obviously we didn’t expect to get everybody, but it’s going to give us a lot of work to figure out what the challenges were for families. They had a lot on their minds when the kids went back to school, so maybe that was part of it.”

Don Somers/CBC

Livingstone said the SHA will now regroup and explore how it can work with the divisions to best deliver the service.

The SHA said in a statement that in Regina, more than 250 students consented to testing. In Prince Albert, more than 90 people responded. Both numbers were surpassed by Saskatoon, where more than 550 responded at Holy Cross.

So far, health officials have recorded single cases of COVID-19 in six schools in Saskatchewan, five of which are in Saskatoon, including one at Holy Cross High School.

On Thursday, Premier Scott Moe said there does not appear to be any transmission of the virus in Saskatchewan schools, but that now that schools are back in session, it is important for people to respect and follow best practices.

“The protocols that the schools have put in place are working. I would even say they are working quite well,” Moe said.

Moe stressed that it only takes one person letting their guard down at the wrong time for one COVID-19 case to grow into dozens.

Derrick Kunz, spokesperson for Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools, which has five of the state’s six COVID-19 school cases, said a good working relationship between GSCS and the SHA is critical.

“According to the school board, it seems like everything went very smoothly (at Holy Cross),” Kunz said. “They said it was great working with the health authority staff.”