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Once swamped by demand, Manitoba COVID-19 testing sites are now underutilized, officials say – CBC.ca

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Weeks after Manitobans with COVID-19 symptoms complained of seven-hour waits for a swab test, Manitoba suddenly finds itself with excess testing capacity.

This has led to renewed calls for targeted testing in personal care homes, schools and other settings where people continue to congregate indoors.

In September and into October, heavy demands for COVID-19 tests forced the province to expand hours at some sites, open new testing centres and create an appointment system for testing.

Swabbing capacity now meets the demand. On Wednesday, Premier Brian Pallister declared there are no longer any waits to get COVID-19 tests in Manitoba.

“Just this past weekend, not one testing site in the province got within half of the capacity we’ve created,” Premier Brian Pallister said Wednesday during question period in the legislative chamber.

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer, confirmed testing capacity now meets the demand.

“Essentially, all of our testing specimen-collection sites are working under capacity,” he said.

This is reflected in the number of laboratory tests completed by the province.

Daily test completions peaked in Manitoba on Nov. 13, when the average test count over seven days was 3,442 per day.

The seven-day average test count is now 2,495.

Care home asks for targeted testing

This means the province is now completing almost 1,000 fewer test per day — and 7,000 fewer over a week.

That’s enough capacity to test many of the province’s care-home residents and workers once a week for COVID-19, said Sam Baardman, whose 95-year-old mother-in-law lives in the Simkin Centre, one of the Winnipeg personal care homes afflicted with a coronavirus outbreak.

In November, the Simkin Centre asked the province to engage in targeted testing within the care home. The request was denied.

“This has been requested and suggested by our site a number of times and currently is not supported by the government/Shared Health,” Simkin Centre CEO Laurie Cerqueti told families of residents in a letter on Nov. 20. 

“We were told today that the main reason for this is a lack of lab capacity.”

Roussin said Thursday lab-testing capacity must be reserved for symptomatic patients.

“None of this capacity is infinite,” he said, adding there are still strains on laboratory operations, such as the potential shortage of reagents needed to complete the polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, tests that identify the presence of COVID-19 in a sample.

“We want to use our finite resources to the best we can,” Roussin said.

Susan Israel, Sam Baardman’s partner, said she doesn’t understand why the province would not devote lab capacity to seniors living in personal care homes.

“These are the people that are dying at great rates compared to any other group,” said Israel, whose mother has lived in the Simkin Centre for six years.

Manitoba’s Official Opposition, meanwhile, called for the province to engage in targeted rapid testing in Manitoba schools.

NDP Leader Wab Kinew said the provincial decision to extend the holiday school break by two weeks demonstrates schools may not be as safe as the province maintains.

Pallister rejected that call, noting rapid tests are less reliable. Roussin again insisted there is little evidence COVID-19 is transmitted in schools.

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Ontario's COVID test processing dips on Tuesdays, here's why – SooToday

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In its daily updates, Ontario Health provides data on the latest COVID-19 cases, and that includes the testing done by more than 40 labs across the province. 

As recently as May 2020, the province was reporting fewer than 10,000 tests processed in 24 hours, which meant severe delays and a low capacity for testing even for those with symptoms of COVID. 

On Friday, the province reported a record 76,472 tests processed in 24 hours. 

However, even with the capacity to process 60,000 to 70,000 tests in 24 hours, the province’s public health labs are not consistently processing that many test results. 

According to an email from Ontario Health to Village Media, the fluctuation in tests processed is a direct result of how many specimens are sent in. 

“As the volume of specimens collected at assessment centres, long-term care homes, and other specimen collection sites often drops over the weekend, the number of tests processed drops as well,” stated the email from Ontario Health. “We’ll often see a higher number of tests processed than specimens received on a Saturday, for example, as the labs are still processing Friday’s specimens received.” 

Last week’s, Public Health Ontario reported 72,900 tests processed in its report on Saturday, Jan. 9, 62,308 tests processed in its Sunday, Jan. 10 report, 46,402 tests processed in its Jan. 11 report, and 44,802 tests processed in its Jan. 12 report. After that, the number of tests processed each day increased from 50,931 on Jan. 13 to 76,742 on Jan. 15.

“On a Tuesday, we may see a lower number of tests processed than specimens received as the labs are processing Monday’s volumes,” stated the email.  “For context, on Saturday, Jan. 9, 36,000 tests were received and 62,000 were processed.” 

The province also reports the number of tests still under investigation or awaiting processing at a lab. Last week that backlog ranged from 28,774 to 66,940. 

“There are always tests in progress,” stated Ontario Health.

As of Friday, Jan. 15, Public Health Ontario has reported 8,791,388 tests processed during the pandemic.

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Ontario's COVID test processing dips on Tuesdays, here's why – CollingwoodToday

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In its daily updates, Ontario Health provides data on the latest COVID-19 cases, and that includes the testing done by more than 40 labs across the province. 

As recently as May 2020, the province was reporting fewer than 10,000 tests processed in 24 hours, which meant severe delays and a low capacity for testing even for those with symptoms of COVID. 

On Friday, the province reported a record 76,472 tests processed in 24 hours. 

However, even with the capacity to process 60,000 to 70,000 tests in 24 hours, the province’s public health labs are not consistently processing that many test results. 

According to an email from Ontario Health to Village Media, the fluctuation in tests processed is a direct result of how many specimens are sent in. 

“As the volume of specimens collected at assessment centres, long-term care homes, and other specimen collection sites often drops over the weekend, the number of tests processed drops as well,” stated the email from Ontario Health. “We’ll often see a higher number of tests processed than specimens received on a Saturday, for example, as the labs are still processing Friday’s specimens received.” 

Last week’s, Public Health Ontario reported 72,900 tests processed in its report on Saturday, Jan. 9, 62,308 tests processed in its Sunday, Jan. 10 report, 46,402 tests processed in its Jan. 11 report, and 44,802 tests processed in its Jan. 12 report. After that, the number of tests processed each day increased from 50,931 on Jan. 13 to 76,742 on Jan. 15.

“On a Tuesday, we may see a lower number of tests processed than specimens received as the labs are processing Monday’s volumes,” stated the email.  “For context, on Saturday, Jan. 9, 36,000 tests were received and 62,000 were processed.” 

The province also reports the number of tests still under investigation or awaiting processing at a lab. Last week that backlog ranged from 28,774 to 66,940. 

“There are always tests in progress,” stated Ontario Health.

As of Friday, Jan. 15, Public Health Ontario has reported 8,791,388 tests processed during the pandemic.

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Quebec reports 2,225 new COVID-19 cases, 67 deaths as hospitalizations decline – The Record (New Westminster)

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MONTREAL — Quebec is reporting 2,225 new COVID-19 cases and 67 further deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus. 

The number of hospitalizations dropped for a second day, this time by 22 for a total of 1,474 patients, with four fewer patients in intensive care for a total of 227.

Health Minister Christian Dube tweeted that all Quebecers need to continue to follow public health rules to ensure cases and hospitalizations go down.

The province’s Health Department reported 2,430 more recoveries, for a total of 210,364.

Quebec currently has 21,640 active cases.

The province has now reported 240,970 confirmed infections and 9,005 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 16, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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