As well as fighting fires and saving lives, the London Fire Service can now add rapid test triage to its CV.
Earlier this week, the Thames Valley District School Board received a shipment of 146,000 COVID-19 rapid antigen test kits from the Ontario government. The tests are intended for elementary school staff and students, as well as school daycare operators and bus drivers.
COVID-19 – LDCSB staff and volunteers spend hours sorting rapid tests after delivery at 3:30 a.m.
The province’s return to in-person learning had ordered school boards to give each of the aforementioned recipients a pair of tests to take home, leaving TVDSB with a massive packing operation ahead of it.
Business Superintendent Cathy Lynd says the operation began by splitting the shipment into crates containing 540 tests each.
The tests were kept in the TVDSB warehouse and anyone who volunteered to help would be given two cases each, along with the task of sorting 1,080 individual tests into ‘bags of two’.
“It’s in a spreadsheet, we have a lot of people all across the board helping us out and we’re tracking who has them, who’s returning them, planning pick-up times and return times,” said Lynd.
“It was an experience.”
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Despite more than 100 TVDSB staff volunteering, more help was needed and that’s when a service no stranger to helping Londoners offered to step in.
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“The London Professional Fire Fighters’ Association had proposed the idea to our chief, Chief Lori Hamer,” Deputy Fire Chief Al Hunt said.
“So the association was saying, ‘We’d like to get involved,’ and we thought we’d like to get involved as well, so our leader contacted the Thames Valley District School Board and said, ‘How can we help?’”
From Wednesday to Friday morning, district leaders collected cases of kits from TVDSB before distributing them to four fire stations in the city, according to Hunt.
Dozens of staff have offered to help, including a number of furloughed people who have come to help.
“Of course the emergency calls came first and when the tones went off our teams came out and answered but when they came back they were more than willing to sit down again and start working. package these tests,” Hunt said.
“I think everyone was so upbeat and happy because they just wanted to be able to help and they wanted to be able to distribute these test kits to the kids on the school board.”
Lynd says delivery of packaged test pairs began Thursday and should be complete by the end of the week.
Priority test kits for high school students are expected to arrive in the coming weeks, according to the provincial government.
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