A parent is calling for rapid testing at schools and daycares after the newest iteration of COVID-19 appeared in the centre her children attend.

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This article was published 13/12/2021 (194 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

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A parent is calling for rapid testing at schools and daycares after the newest iteration of COVID-19 appeared in the centre her children attend.

Public health officials identified a case of the omicron variant in a Little Voyageurs Learning Centre daycare this weekend. The preschool program temporarily closed after learning of two COVID-19 cases, one of which was later identified as the omicron variant.

The centre, located inside École Provencher, has shuttered while 18 staff members get tested. They must be cleared before returning to work.

"I wish we had access to rapid tests," a parent, who asked to remain anonymous, said.

"I am upset at the government for not releasing these (rapid) tests and for not providing information on how many have been released… They could be being used in daycares and schools for this exact reason."

The parent was "shocked and worried" after receiving an email about the omicron case on Saturday. The daycare, which has space for 48 preschoolers, has been closed since Dec. 5.

All staff members and students in a building should use a rapid test when a COVID-19 case is confirmed, the parent said. The parent also wants to see mandatory negative tests after returning from the holiday break.

Children ages five through 11 became eligible for COVID-19 vaccination in Canada on Nov. 18, with pediatric-sized doses rolling out later that month.

Ontario is sending rapid COVID-19 tests home with its students to use over the winter vacation.

Ten Manitoban doctors, including Dr. Dan Roberts in Health Sciences Centre’s critical care unit, have signed a letter detailing a crisis facing the province’s hospitals and urging Manitoba to take action.

"Our critical care services are failing," the letter reads. "We will once again have to fly out ventilated patients to other provinces."

It calls on the provincial government to make rapid tests widely available to schools and businesses. It also states COVID-19 vaccination should be mandatory for students who attend in-person classes, barring medical exemptions.

Jodie Kehl, executive director of the Manitoba Child Care Association, said child-care centres should remain vigilant about their safety policies, just as they have throughout the pandemic.

"I guess it was just a matter of time before we unfortunately heard this," she said of the omicron case at Little Voyageurs. "I think it’s just a really good reminder that this pandemic is not done with us yet."

A notice from the centre Saturday told parents to keep family members home, regardless of their vaccination status, because a case of the omicron variant of concern was identified. People must receive a negative COVID-19 test to stop self-isolating.

"I am extremely happy with how the daycare has handled everything COVID-related, including this potential exposure," another parent, who wants to remain anonymous, wrote in an email.

"They have always met or exceeded provincial guidelines. Having the dubious honour of the first publicly known omicron exposure is just awful for them… They are a great daycare centre, and this just such bad luck."

The site is one of three run by the licensed child-care centre. The other two are located in Marion School and Prince Edward School.

"We are anxiously waiting to get back to what we do best, which we hope will be on Wednesday," the letter to school-age parents states.

New modelling released by the federal government on Friday suggests the omicron variant could lead to a surge in COVID-19 cases.

The province announced five cases of the omicron variant last week. The Little Voyageurs case is the first linked to a publicly identified location. Two of the five infected people had travelled to one of the southern African countries that are currently under a Canadian travel ban. The other three are close contacts of the second announced case.

gabrielle.piche@winnipegfreepress.com

Gabrielle Piché

Gabrielle Piché
Reporter

Gabby is a big fan of people, writing and learning. She graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in the spring of 2020.