Beginning January 18, 2021, the Manitoba government will pilot a new COVID-19 testing centre, called Fast Pass, to offer appointment-based rapid tests for staff working directly with students. Hanover School Division has been selected to participate.
“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 launches on Jan. 18 at 1066 Nairn Ave. 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.
“We want teachers and school staff to be able to focus on their students and to continue providing quality education to our young Manitobans,” said Education Minister Cliff Cullen. “The Fast Pass program will help keep our schools safe by ensuring faster notifications of positive cases and giving our school staff the confidence that they are COVID-19 free when they return to work.”
Teachers, educational support staff and other staff working in schools and directly with students, including bus drivers, custodians and child care staff working in school-based early learning and child care facilities are eligible for Fast Pass site appointments. Eligible clients must be symptomatic, identified as a close contact as a result of an exposure at school, or have a symptomatic household member. Clients will be required to show identification and proof of employer at the time of appointment.
Fast Pass appointments must be made ahead of time by phoning the general appointment line, available at gov.mb.ca, which will triage eligible clients to the Fast Pass site. Appointment bookings for this site will be available starting Jan. 17.
The site will be open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily starting Jan. 18, 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.
During the first week of the launch, appointments will be limited to about 20 to 40 slots per day, and ramp up to about 80 by the second week, with the long-term goal to perform 160 tests per day.
The province’s testing strategy continues to follow public health evidence, which focuses on symptomatic testing for diagnostic purposes. Launching as a pilot program will also allow the province to evaluate, learn from, and adjust to ensure it best meets public health needs in Manitoba’s fight against COVID-19, Stefanson noted.
Clients will be able to access a positive test result online on the same day they were tested. As with a regular test, individuals and their households must continue to self-isolate while awaiting their results. During the pilot phase, some individuals may experience longer wait times to access a result as testing processes are established. Clients will be provided with instructions on what to expect when they arrive for their appointment.
Following a period of evaluation, plans are in place to potentially expand the Fast Pass program to other locations in Manitoba, including Winkler and Brandon.
Fast Pass sites, operated by Dynacare, will use the lab-based Songbird Hyris bCUBE rapid test, which will be administered by those trained to do rapid testing through Red River College’s micro-credential program, previously announced on Dec. 16.
This is another tool in our testing arsenal to slow the spread of COVID-19 through fast identification, Stefanson noted. As announced Dec. 17, a rapid testing pilot project is also underway for staff working at selected personal care home facilities.