OTTAWA -- The Ottawa COVID-19 Testing Taskforce says a testing blitz of asymptomatic educational workers, students, and children in child care will take place during the April Break while schools are closed.

In a bulletin sent Saturday afternoon, the task force said educational staff, students, and children attending childcare located within schools who have no symptoms of COVID-19 are temporarily eligible for COVID-19 tests at select pharmacies and at mobile testing clinics targeting schools in priority areas between April 12 and 18.

The blitz is aimed at "support[ing] a safe return to in-person learning following the April break," the task force said.

On Friday, Ottawa's medical officer of health, Dr. Vera Etches, said she believed schools were "more likely than not" to remain closed after the April break, as cases continue to surge in Ottawa and around the province.

Etches, who has been a strong proponent of keeping schools open as much as possible, said that although the overall number of outbreaks in schools has remained "stable", she is concerned with the ongoing growth of the number of people testing positive.

Ottawa Public Health is currently reporting outbreaks at 14 schools in Ottawa, involving 44 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among students and staff. OPH reported a record 325 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday.

Etches said a decision on whether schools will open after April break or remain closed will be made by Wednesday.

Several options for tests

This testing blitz is voluntary and open only to educational workers, students and childcare attendees who are not presenting any COVID-19 symptoms. Anyone with symptoms is asked to book a COVID-19 test through one of Ottawa many COVID-19 assessment centres.

School & community-based testing is taking place this weekend in Vanier at old Rideau High School. Twenty-nine schools have been invited for both symptomatic & asymptomatic testing of staff, students, families and the broader community.

School & community-based testing will also occur next weekend at Sir Guy Carleton school in Nepean involving 21 schools. Both symptomatic & asymptomatic testing of staff, students, families and the broader community will be available.

The Ministry of Education has partnered with LifeLabs to conduct testing at five different schools between Monday and Friday of next week, involving more than 45,000 students in high-risk neighbourhoods, as well as teachers, staff, and students' families.

Some pharmacies in Ottawa are also conducting asymptomatic testing of educational workers, students, and childcare attendees during the April break, the task force said.

Visit Ontario's COVID-19 assessment centre locations website and select "pharmacies" for a current list of pharmacies offering COVID-19 testing.

The Ottawa COVID-19 Testing Taskforce says that educational workers, students, and children attending childcare cannot book tests at COVID-19 assessment centres, such as the Brewer Arena, if they have no symptoms of COVID-19. This is to ensure that people who do have symptoms have their tests completed in a timely manner to aid with contact tracing efforts.

For more information on where to get COVID-19 test in Ottawa and eastern Ontario, click here.