Temporary shelter at North Surrey Recreation Centre is one of the shelter locations that has dealt with COVID-19 outbreaks. (Surrey Now-Leader)

Temporary shelter at North Surrey Recreation Centre is one of the shelter locations that has dealt with COVID-19 outbreaks. (Surrey Now-Leader)

Rapid tests deployed for B.C. homeless shelter outbreaks

‘Every possible use’ for COVID-19 in care homes too

B.C. public health officials are using their available rapid test capacity to help contain COVID-19 outbreaks in shelters, prisons and senior care facilities, as well as clusters of infection in hospitals and in the community, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says.

Henry confirmed Friday that B.C.’s limited supplies of rapid tests have been used to deal with recent outbreaks at shelters in Surrey and Vancouver, and they continue to be deployed for staff in long-term care with infection clusters. A vaccine clinic was also held in Vancouver’s downtown east side Friday, now that all B.C. long-term care facilities have received a first dose of vaccine.

Henry defended B.C.’s policy on rapid testing, which uses a sample collected by nose or throat swab or gargling salt water for a saliva sample, as is used in schools. The available tests are not as accurate as the standard tests reported each day to confirm COVID-19, and supplies are limited.

“We are using rapid tests in long-term care and have been,” Henry said Jan. 29. “We’ve been using them in the downtown east side, in shelters, in correctional facilities, in communities, in residences, every place that we think they may be of value.”

B.C.’s Seniors Advocate and care home operators have urged the health ministry to deploy regular rapid tests for all staff at long-term care homes, but Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix have maintained that they can’t do that, partly because the tests B.C. has are only licensed for use on people with coronavirus symptoms.

“The rapid tests that have been sent to us are not successful or effective in dealing with asymptomatic testing, and in any event, haven’t been sent to use in numbers available to put in place such a system,” Dix told the legislature in December when he was pressed to implement daily testing in senior care homes.

RELATED: 26 positive tests at Surrey emergency shelter

RELATED: B.C. minister defends rapid-test pilot project

Henry noted that B.C.’s rapid tests are not simple to use, requiring health-care staff to take the samples. That means in a hospital or care facility dealing with an outbreak, available staff are in short supply, and more have to come in to administer the tests.

“Whether we use rapid testing where access to the gold standard is not as timely, that will continue,” Henry said. “But we will continue to use the gold standard PCR testing where our turn-around times are very short in most places.”

PCR stands for polymerase chain reaction, the standard test that detects the genetic material in the virus when analyzed in a laboratory. B.C.’s turnaround time for completing the tests spiked up last fall when the number of tests increased with the second wave of infections, but it is currently back down below 24 hours to show results, even as daily tests have climbed back to about 12,000 a day. PCR tests are the main source of B.C.’s daily coronavirus case results.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 80+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

The fundraising effort to purchase 40 hectares west of Cottonwood Lake announced its success this week. Photo: Submitted
Cottonwood Lake fundraiser reaches goal

The community group has raised $400,000 to purchase 40 hectares of forest

The BC Interior Forestry Museum’s Riverside Forest Walk on Highway 23, north of Revelstoke, begins at their parking lot. (Jocelyn Doll/Revelstoke Review)
Revelstoke trail network to expand with the help of CBT funding

Four Revelstoke projects received a total of almost $80,000

B.C.’s court of appeal in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Kootenay man appeals 7-year conviction for New Year’s Eve kidnapping, beating

Brandon Coons, 27, was convicted on five charges, including assault with a weapon

Lesley Garlow, Indigenous educator at Touchstones Museum of Art and History, with two of many red dresses hanging outside Nelson City Hall as part of the REDress Project by Métis artist Jaime Black. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
Red dress exhibit outside Nelson City Hall calls for justice for Indigenous women and girls

The REDress Project has also been installed in Touchstones gallery

Langley resident Carrie MacKay shared a video showing how stairs are a challenge after spending weeks in hospital battling COVID-19 (Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Stairs a challenge for B.C. woman who chronicled COVID-19 battle

‘I can now walk for six (to) 10 minutes a day’

Gas prices jumped in Golden to 131.9c this week, a trend that's supposed to continue into the summer. (Claire Palmer/Golden Star)
Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Clovechok concerned as gas prices continue to rise

Fuel prices are supposed to skyrocket this summer as British Columbians await BCUC analysis

Det. Sgt. Jim Callender. (Hamilton Police Service screenshot)
B.C. man dead, woman seriously injured after shooting in Hamilton, Ont.

The man was in the process of moving to the greater Toronto area, police say

(Black Press file photo)
Child in critical condition, homicide investigators probe incident near Agassiz

The child was transported to hospital but is not expected to survive

Sewage plant in Lower Mainland, operated by Metro Vancouver. (Metro Vancouver screenshot)
‘Poop tracker’ launches as researchers test Lower Mainland sewage water for COVID-19

‘Studying the virus in wastewater allows researchers to look at an entire population…’

(Pxhere)
Compensation fund opens for B.C. students negatively affected by incorrect exam marks

Marks for 2019 provincial exams were incorrectly tabulated

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Time to check the mail: Every household to receive a Canada Post postcard this spring

Postcard can be mailed for free to any address in Canada

The humanoid sensing robot has a 3D printed finger cap that measures oxygen levels. (Dr. Woo Soo Kim)
Medical care robots being made with 3D origami in B.C. lab

Would you let a robot take your temperature?

Most Read