Mark Clairmont |

MUSKOKA — Employees of Muskoka businesses belonging to chambers of commerce will be getting free rapid COVID testing for employees.

“We’re super excited,” said Sandy Lockhart, executive director of the Gravenhurst Chamber of Commerce.

“It will help businesses stay open and viable and reassure customers that staff are being regularly tested.

“We jumped on it right away.”

Muskoka’s chambers expect to launch the program next week as they continue to sort out emerging details.

Lockhart said basically businesses would sign up to have their employees regularly tested. And they would have to report the results back to their local chambers, who are working on ways to provide proof to the public that employees are being tested.

The provincial and federal governments with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce have launched the COVID-19 Rapid Screening Initiative for small and medium-sized businesses.

They say the program will screen for asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 in the workplace that might otherwise be missed helping to keep workers and their families safe and businesses open.

More than 760,000 rapid test kits have already shipped to 28 chambers and more than 50 others have expressed interest in participating.

Rocco Rossi, president and CEO of the OCC called it a positive step.

“Rapid testing is one of the key ways to keep workplaces as safe as possible during the pandemic as we wait for vaccinations to roll out. It will be an essential part of curbing the spread of COVID-19 in our communities so that we can get on the path to economic recovery faster.

“As the indispensable partner of business, we are proud that many of our member chambers of commerce and boards of trade will be offering this program, distributing rapid tests to small and local businesses across the province.”

Ontario has already begun delivering rapid testing kits through the Provincial Antigen Screening Program to workplaces for asymptomatic staff in key sectors such as manufacturing, warehousing, the supply chain, mining, construction and food processing. As of April 30, about 7.6 million rapid antigen tests had been sent through the program to nearly 1,500 workplaces. This includes nearly 200 essential industry sites, most of them in hot spot areas.

A COVID-19 rapid screening test can be performed anywhere (e.g., on-site, at the place of employment) and does not require shipping a specimen to a lab for processing. It takes about 15 minutes to yield a result.

Rapid antigen point-of-care testing does not replace public health measures, such as symptom screening, physical distancing, masking and hand hygiene. Any positive results from a rapid antigen point-of-care test must be confirmed with laboratory-based chain reaction (PCR) testing.

Employees can self-swab using a COVID-19 rapid test under the supervision of a trained employee or business owner.

Frequent screening with rapid antigen tests increases the chances of early identification of cases in otherwise asymptomatic individuals.

Organizations participating in the Provincial Antigen Screening Program can now search for a service provider offering point-of-care rapid testing services through a directory on the Ontario Together website. Service providers offering point-of-care COVID-19 testing services can also apply to be listed.

Businesses will have to pick up test kits for their employees and return the results to their chamber of commerce.



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