TORONTO — There’s only one group in Ontario that cannot be vaccinated, and they gather in groups — that’s why Official Opposition NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and Child Care critic Bhutila Karpoche are calling for all children under five to qualify immediately for free PCR tests, making child care safer.
“Premier Doug Ford’s choice to block access to COVID tests for most Ontarians is wrong, and for parents of little ones who cannot be vaccinated, it’s been especially awful,” said Horwath. “Families with kids in child care have been left to agonize over each exposure and every tummy ache — or shell out hundreds of dollars to buy a test. Some families have taken their kids right out of day care because they don’t feel safe anymore. With free PCR COVID tests, we can make little ones and child care workers safer, and help parents get back to work after false alarms.”
On Dec. 30, Ford cut off access to free COVID PCR tests for most people. On Jan. 6, the government issued screening rules for child care so kids 11 and under must stay home for at least five days if they vomit, have a headache, or otherwise feel unwell. The entire household is required to isolate during this time, too.
Families can buy their way out of quarantine with a negative PCR test, but each test costs about $150.
“I’m hearing from a lot of families who can’t afford to take five days off work, and can’t afford to shell out hundreds of dollars for PCR tests every time there’s a runny nose,” said Karpoche, who has two young children. “In child care, we have unvaccinated kids gathering indoors. Little ones are usually not great at keeping a mask on. Yet we’re not testing them. Everyone deserves access to testing as well as paid sick days — and one urgent step in the right direction would be for Doug Ford to announce right now that kids under five can get PCR tests for free again.”
The NDP also wants N95s for all child care staff, every day; smaller child care group sizes; faster boosters for child care staff; rapid tests for families and staff in child care; paid sick ad family care days; and for the government to resume tracking and reporting COVID cases in child care.
Katie Eberth, mom and frontline health care worker
“It has been hard to ensure we are always breaking the chain of infection between daycare and the hospital - whether I’ve been caring for a Covid patient or my unit is on outbreak, or if my child is symptomatic or has been a classroom contact. Access to PCR testing has allowed us to return to work/daycare after these exposures with more confidence in knowing that we’ve done our best to prevent transmission.”