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

Protestors against old growth logging gather in front of the courthouse in Victoria on Thursday morning. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Fairy Creek protesters gather at Victoria courthouse

Logging company seeks injunction to remove blockades near its Port Renfrew operation

Clockwise from top left: Malahat First Nation Chief George Harry and councillors Steve Henry and Cindy Harry address community members in a video posted to YouTube on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. (Screenshot)
Malahat Nation confirms first two cases of COVID-19

Community has been under stay-at-home order since Jan. 7

Smithers Interior News Editorial
Editorial: Opportunity for equality

COVID-19 has amplified inequalities faced by women; the recovery can be a step forward

These storefronts on Trunk Road have been informed by the City of Duncan that they must change their addresses to Festubert Street. (Robert Barron/Citizen)
Duncan business owners upset about being forced to change address

Owners say City of Duncan’s plan will hurt their business

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

The Regional District of Nanaimo’s board is forwarding a motion on illegal dumping to the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities’ upcoming annual general meeting. (Kane Blake photo)
Island communities asked to join forces in seeking help fighting illegal dumping

RDN resolution to be forwarded to Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon speaks in the B.C. legislature, describing work underway to make a small business and tourism aid package less restrictive, Dec. 10, 2020. (Hansard TV)
B.C. extends deadline for tourism, small business COVID-19 grants

Business owners expect months more of lost revenues

Mid day at the Vancouver Port Intersection blockade on March 3, organized by the Braided Warriors. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
Anti-pipeline blockade at Vancouver intersection broken up by police

Demonstraters were demanding the release of a fellow anti-TMX protester

One person is dead after a camper van caught fire Thursday morning in Victoria’s Beacon Hill Park. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
One person dead after vehicle fire in Victoria park

Investigation into Beacon Hill Park death in early stages

(Government of B.C.)
Chelsea Harry was last seen Feb. 21. Photo via Comox Valley RCMP
Vancouver Island RCMP seeking help locating a missing woman

Missing person last seen in Courtenay on Feb. 21

Backcountry skiers are dwarfed by the mountains as they make their way along a mountain ridge near McGillivray Pass Lodge located in the southern Chilcotin Mountains of British Columbia, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012. Avalanche Canada has issued a special warning to people who use the backcountry in the mountains of western Alberta and eastern British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Avalanche Canada special warning for mountains in western Alberta, eastern B.C.

Avalanche Canada also says everyone in a backcountry party needs essential rescue gear

Most Read