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 soldier walks along the outside of a crater formed through a demolition. Photo: Aaron Hemens
Military exercises assist with restoration of Lower Kootenay Band wetlands

A total of nine craters were created through demolitions, where the goal is to have them serve as future habitats for ducks and geese.

Fields Forward’s fruit press machine. (File photo)
Regional food processing facility coming to Creston

The facility will produce juices from fruits and vegetables, package vegetables for institutions, bottle jams, freeze-dry products into powders and provide other food processing services.

Al Garrecht holds up a plaque acknowledging his “service above self” from the Creston Valley Rotary Club during a tribute meeting on Feb. 9, 2021. Photo: Dave Handy
Creston Valley Rotary Club bids farewell to longtime member Al Garrecht

“Thank you, Al Garrecht. You leave an incredible legacy of service with CVRC. You live our motto, ‘Service Above Self’. Thank You.”

Remi Drolet
Rossland skier competes at World Nordic ski championship

Remi Drolet was selected to Team Canada and will race at the 2021 FIS World Nordic Ski Championships

A rainbow shining on Kelowna General Hospital on May 12, 2020 International Nurses Day. (Steve Wensley - Prime Light Media)
New COVID cases trending down in Interior Health

24 new cases reported Thursday, Feb. 25, death at Kelowna General Hospital

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

The BC Prosecution Service announced last year that it was appointing lawyer Marilyn Sandford as a special prosecutor to review the case, following media inquiries about disclosure issues linked to a pathologist involved in the matter. (Black Press Media files)
Possible miscarriage of justice in B.C. woman’s conviction in toddler drowning: prosecutor

Tammy Bouvette was originally charged with second-degree murder but pleaded guilty in 2013 to the lesser charge

A kid in elementary school wearing a face mask amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Metro Creative)
Union asks why an elementary school mask rule wouldn’t work in B.C. if it does elsewhere

B.C. education minister announced expansion of mask-wearing rules in middle, high school but not elementary students

A pharmacist prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at Village Green Retirement Campus in Federal Way on Jan. 26. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
Canada approves use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine

The country joins more than a dozen others in giving the shot the green light

A new survey has found that virtual visits are British Columbian’s preferred way to see the doctor amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Unsplash)
Majority of British Columbians now prefer routine virtual doctor’s visits: study

More than 82% feel virtual health options reduce wait times, 64% think they lead to better health

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

Carolyn Howe, a kindergarten teacher and vice president of the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association, says educators are feeling the strain of the COVID-19 pandemic and the influx of pressure that comes with it. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Stress leave, tears and insomnia: B.C. teachers feel the strain of COVID-19

Teachers still adjusting to mask and cleaning rules, pressures from outside and within

Captain and Maria, a pair of big and affectionate akbash dogs, must be adopted together because they are so closely bonded. (SPCA image)
Shuswap SPCA seeks forever home for inseparable Akbash dogs

A fundraiser to help medical expenses for Captain and Maria earned over 10 times its goal

The missing camper heard a GSAR helicopter, and ran from his tree well waving his arms. File photo
Man trapped on Manning mountain did nearly everything right to survive: SAR

The winter experienced camper was overwhelmed by snow conditions

Most Read