Workers arrive at the Lynn Valley Care Centre seniors home, in North Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday, March 14, 2020. It was the site of Canada’s first COVID-19 outbreak in a long-term care facility. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Workers arrive at the Lynn Valley Care Centre seniors home, in North Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday, March 14, 2020. It was the site of Canada’s first COVID-19 outbreak in a long-term care facility. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Rapid tests ‘not a panacea’ for care homes, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

B.C. lacks capacity for daily tests of thousands of workers

B.C. doesn’t have sufficient capacity for rapid COVID-19 tests to apply them daily for thousands of care home staff, and so far their accuracy has not been shown to be sufficient, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says.

Henry was asked Monday about the recommendation from B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie to provide an extra layer of protection for long-term care residents who are most at risk from exposure to the novel coronavirus.

With more than 1,500 new cases diagnosed on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, Nov. 23, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control reported six additional infections detected in the health care system. Henry said the total of 970 active cases in either care homes or hospitals, 365 among staff members, is a “sobering thought” for public health managers.

“It is not a panacea,” Henry said. “It is not what is going to solve our issue, because the tests have faults and limitations, and you’d have to test everybody every day.

“And yes, they do it in some sectors, for short periods of time, but the volume of testing that that would require is not at the point where it would be helpful for us instead of the regular screening that we do every day. And when we do have outbreaks, we do test asymptomatic workers as well as the residents in care homes and in the hospitals as needed.”

Mackenzie suggested rapid tests, which have lower sensitivity, could be added to symptom screening for health care workers, with those showing positive results referred to the more accurate nasal swab tests.

RELATED: Seniors Advocate calls for more testing of care home staff

RELATED: B.C. records 17 deaths, 1,933 cases in weekend surge


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