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

A West Kootenay man died in an avalanche on March 4 while snowmobiling near Mount Payne, which is indicted by the red flag. Illustration: Google Maps
Father of 3 dead after avalanche in West Kootenay

The man was snowmobiling with a group when incident occurred March 4

Const. Allan Young. Photo: Abbotsford Police Department
Manslaughter charge laid in Nelson death of Abbotsford police officer

Allan Young died after an incident in downtown Nelson last summer

Forty-seven vaccination clinics will open across Interior Health beginning March 15. (Canadian Press)
48 COVID-19 vaccine clinics to open across Interior Health

Select groups can book appointments starting Monday

Seniors in the Interior Health region can book their COVID-19 vaccinations starting Monday, March 8, 2021 at 7 a.m. (File photo)
Seniors in Interior Heath region can book COVID-19 shots starting Monday

Starting March 8 the vaccination call centre will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily

Jasper after he was reunited with his owners Mary and Brent Hummel. Photo: Steve Smith
New children’s book features lost Castlegar dog who swam the Columbia multiple times

Brent and Mary Hummel and Jasper tell their dramatic story

Third-grader Hudson Adrian (left) on Wednesday, Feb. 24, poses with fourth-graders Josh Hlookoff (centre) and Jaylen Dekteroff at Hutton Elementary’s Pink Shirt Day parade. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
WATCH — Grand Forks’ elementaries support Pink Shirt Day

The annual celebration of kindness puts paid to the idea that bullying was ever cool

Health Minister Adrian Dix, front, B.C. Premier John Horgan and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrive for a news conference about the provincial response to the coronavirus, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, March 6, 2020. Pandemic emergency measures have been in place for almost a year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. officials plead for patience as 1.7 million COVID-19 calls flood in

Vaccine registration for 90-plus seniors opened Monday

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Vaccine hesitancy decreases in B.C. as mass immunizations set to begin: poll

Two-thirds of British Columbians, and Canadians, would get the vaccine as soon as possible

Software engineer Shaimma Yehia, 40, has been forced to re-skill during the COVID-19 pandemic after more than six years of unsuccessfully applying for jobs in B.C.’s tech industry. (Submitted photo/Shaimma Yehia)
Why skilled immigrant women continue to be shut out of B.C.’s booming tech sector

Experienced software engineer Shaimma Yehia, 40, hasn’t found a job since she migrated to Canada 6 years ago

Ron Sivorot, business director at Kennametal’s Langford site, the Greater Victoria facility that made a component being used on NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars. (Jake Romphf, Black Press Media)
NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover digging in with B.C.-made part

Kennametal’s Langford plant’s tooth blank is helping the rover’s drill collect rock cores

A woman walks through Toronto’s financial district on Monday, July 30, 2018. A new poll suggests most Canadians believe there’s still a long way to go to achieve gender equality in this country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Canadians, especially women, say gender equality not achieved in Canada: Poll

Poll results themselves underscore the challenge, with more men believing equality had been achieved

This image provided by Harpo Productions shows Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, left, in conversation with Oprah Winfrey. (Joe Pugliese/Harpo Productions via AP)
Race, title and anguish: Meghan and Harry explain royal rift

Meghan said she struggled with concerns within the royal family about her son’s skin colour

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

Sarah Cotton-Elliott said she believed her children took a back seat to arranging equal parenting

Most Read