Some parents and childcare workers express frustration with COVID testing

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One parent said it took more than 300 calls and over nine and a half hours for her to get connected to the COVID-19 hotline.

Some parent and childcare workers have expressed concerns over the need to have COVID-19 tests done for children with mild cold symptoms. An overwhelmed COVID-19 hotline has created frustrations scheduling tests and has forced some parents to keep children home.

“I can’t work properly. My husband and I are both working from home right now… His job is more demanding than mine, so I end up taking care of the kids a lot more, but it definitely  impacts my productivity and what I am able to do for my job,” said Selina Andres a parent who was required to show a negative COVID-19 test to her child’s daycare before he could go back after having a runny nose.

Andres said it took more than 300 calls and over nine and a half hours for her to get connected to the COVID-19 hotline. “I literally left my phone on that call from 8:30 in the morning till 5:00 that night and nobody picked up, so I am assuming it didn’t connect,” she said. “The next day we started again at 8:30 and we decided we are just going to keep spam calling until we get through,” she said.

Her son stayed home from daycare on Sunday and cannot go back until after getting results from a test scheduled for Friday and being symptom free for 24-hours. Despite her thinking the symptoms were not severe, she said her family is required to quarantine until they get test results. 

Andres said she reached out to MLAs for help scheduling tests, but they could not help because of the recent call for an election and she received an automated response.

Farell Elliott works in childcare and said her daycare saw more than half its children absent on Tuesday because their parents were waiting for COVID-19 test results

“Most of the parent have to rely on secondary caregivers — so grandparents, friends, they have had to try to find people at the last minute. Some have had to take [time] off work and that obviously severely affects their family incomes,” said Elliott.

Slow testing and the requirements of children to stay home with any symptoms is inhibiting many parents’ ability to work, according to Elliott. She said this can be a big stressor with CERB coming to an end this month, but recognizes this is something parents and caregivers will have to adapt to.

“For everyone to be safe, they definitely need faster testing just to have everyone’s peace of mind,” she said. “It’s bound to happen that everyone is going to get a cold — there is just no other possibility.”

Elliott said her daycare decided to follow new protocol set forth by Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, on Monday which changes what symptoms call for children to be home and tested for COVID-19. 

“If they are sick, they are still required to stay home, but they are not necessarily required to get COVID testing anymore as of [Wednesday],” she said, adding kids have to be symptom free for 24-hours before returning to daycare, no matter the symptom.

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