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Rapid tests slow to be used as health officials unsure of reliability, best use – Cowichan Valley Citizen

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More than 3.8 million rapid tests for COVID-19 are now in the hands of provincial health authorities but many jurisdictions are still evaluating how the devices might help battle the pandemic.

Health Canada has approved more than three dozen different tests for COVID-19, but only six of them are “point-of-care” versions more commonly referred to as rapid tests.

The “gold-standard” COVID-19 tests need to be processed in a lab, and usually take at least a day to provide results. Rapid tests can be processed in the same place a patient is tested, sometimes in as few as 15 minutes, but they are generally considered less reliable than lab results.

There are two different kinds of rapid tests. One, like the traditional lab-based version, looks for the genetic material of the novel coronavirus. The other looks for the specific markers the virus leaves on the outside of a cell, known as antigens.

Since Sept. 29, Canada has announced plans to buy nearly 38 million rapid tests from five different manufacturers, and began sending the first shipments to provinces in the late last month.

As of this week, more than 3.8 million have been delivered.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford called rapid tests “an absolute game changer” the day the federal government announced its deal with Abbott Diagnostics to buy 7.9 million of its ID Now genetic tests.

They aren’t changing much yet.

Most jurisdictions are still not whether they can fully trust the results, or figure out the best way to use them. In almost all cases, the rapid-test results are still being verified by also testing a patient with the lab-based version.

Ontario Health said Friday the province has started to “roll out” some rapid tests focused on detecting outbreaks and in rural settings where lab tests are harder to access.

Ontario Health will study the results of the initial rollout “to inform possible expansion of the use of this technology,” the department’s spokespeople said in a written statement.

Dr. Vera Etches, the medical officer of health in Ottawa, says her city’s testing team is looking at some pilot projects to use rapid tests, such as at a long-term care home with a suspected outbreak. But she said there are still concerns rapid tests might not be as reliable as the lab tests.

“We’re still needing to study how much would COVID be missed by tests that are falsely negative,” she said.

British Columbia health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday that her province is still validating the ID Now tests at the BC Centre for Disease Control.

She said B.C. has also received some antigen tests but those aren’t yet being used.

“The challenges we have are that they’re not as sensitive, so they don’t pick certain things,” she said.

“But we do know that they can play an important role in places like where we have a cluster of people with an illness and we need to rapidly determine if it is COVID or not. If several people are tested and they’re all negative, that’s reassuring. If one of them is positive, that tells you that this is probably an outbreak that you’re dealing with.”

ALSO READ: Interpreters for B.C.’s COVID updates would boost awareness of pandemic protocols, advocate says

Manitoba has sent several ID Now test kits to remote communities where lab tests can take longer, and to a Winnipeg hospital in the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak. But health workers are still learning how to use them. The swabbing must still be done by trained professionals.

A spokeswoman for Manitoba Health said this week the tests will likely start being used there by the end of the month.

As with Ontario and B.C., Manitoba Health is viewing the rapid tests as experimental, verifying most rapid tests with the lab-based model and then studying the results overall to see how they’re working.

Manitoba Health plans to use the antigen tests it received only as a screening tool, but is still validating the accuracy of antigen tests overall.

A spokeswoman for the Quebec health ministry said Friday Quebec has received 30,000 ID Now tests, and 547,000 antigen tests, known as Panbio, made by Abbott Laboratories.

Marjorie Larouche said in a written statement that the rapid tests are “less sensitive” than lab-based tests.

“Deployment must therefore be carried out in a very supervised and co-ordinated manner,” she said.

An expert committee was set up in Quebec to decide how the tests should be used and is evaluating them in several pilot projects in hospitals in the Montreal and Quebec City areas.

Quebec is looking at using the tests in remote areas, for health workers, screening clinics, long-term care facilities and schools.

“The date for the distribution of tests has not yet been determined,” she said, adding it is expected before the end the year.

— With files from Brenna Owen in Vancouver.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press


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Province offers grant to Halifax-area businesses ordered closed under new COVID rules – Prince George Citizen

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Halifax-area businesses ordered closed in an effort to curb the city’s rising number of COVID-19 cases are getting another round of financial support from the province.

Business Minister Geoff MacLellan said Thursday that the province would offer a one-time grant of up to $5,000 to small, independently owned bars, dine-in restaurants and fitness and leisure centres.

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The businesses are among those that are now closed for at least the next two weeks under health measures that took effect Thursday.

MacLellan said it’s the third round for a grant which is part of a larger $50-million relief fund for business.

“Those who received this in the past will be fast-tracked,” he told reporters following a cabinet meeting. “If there are any that didn’t apply . . . they still will be eligible.”

Businesses can use the grant money for any operational expenses, such as wages and supplies. To be eligible, businesses must have been operating since March 15. There is no cap on annual revenues.

“It’s not going to solve everyone’s problem. We always wish we could do more,” MacLellan said.

Under the new restrictions, retail stores can remain open, but they have to limit the number of shoppers and staff to 25 per cent or less of their legal capacity.

MacLellan said while retailers aren’t part of the targeted relief package, his department will monitor the impact on their business over what is hoped will be only a two-week period before the measures can be lifted.

The province reported 14 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday, including 12 in the Halifax area, one in the northern health zone and one in the western zone.

It said 856 tests were administered at the rapid-testing site in downtown Halifax on Wednesday, and there were five positive results. The individuals were directed to self-isolate and have been referred for a standard test.

“We’ve seen a great uptake for asymptomatic testing among Halifax bar staff and patrons,” Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health said in a news release.

“People are showing us how much they care about their communities by going to these pop-up rapid-testing locations. This has allowed us to detect a few cases among asymptomatic people early on and helps to stop the spread of the virus.”

Since Oct. 1, Nova Scotia has reported 167 COVID-19 cases, and it has had 1,257 cases and 65 deaths since the pandemic began.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 26, 2020.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said companies had to have between $25,000 and $300,000 in annual sales to be eligible.

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COVID-19 in Ottawa: Fast Facts for Nov. 27, 2020 – CTV News Ottawa

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OTTAWA —
Good morning. Here is the latest news on COVID-19 and its impact on Ottawa.

Fast Facts:

  • Long-term care homes a top priority when COVID-19 vaccine arrives: Dr. Etches
  • Ottawa restauranteurs push for province-wide cap on delivery app fees
  • 24 new cases of COIVD-19 in Ottawa on Thursday
  • Ontario could see more than 9,000 new COVID-19 cases per day by end of 2020: new modelling
  • Ontario to test asymptomatic students and teachers at some Ottawa schools for COVID-19

Testing:

Who should get a test?

Ottawa Public Health says there are four reasons to seek testing for COVID-19:

  • You are showing COVID-19 symptoms. OR
  • You have been exposed to a confirmed case of the virus, as informed by Ottawa Public Health or exposure notification through the COVID Alert app. OR
  • You are a resident or work in a setting that has a COVID-19 outbreak, as identified and informed by Ottawa Public Health. OR
  • You are eligible for testing as part of a targeted testing initiative directed by the Ministry of Health or the Ministry of Long-Term Care.

Where to get tested for COVID-19 in Ottawa:

The COVID-19 Assessment Centre at 151 Brewer Way is open seven days a week. Appointments are required in most cases but LIMITED walk-up capacity is available.

To book a test for an adult, click here.

The CHEO Assessment Centre at Brewer Arena – 151 Brewer Way is open seven days a week. Testing is available by appointment only.

To book a test for a child under the age of 18, click here.

The COVID-19 Care and Testing Centre at 595 Moodie Dr. is open from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday to Friday. The centre offers an appointment with a physician (including appropriate tests) for residents who are experiencing more significant symptoms like fever, difficulty breathing or a sore throat, or testing only for residents with mild symptoms or others who qualify for testing under current guidelines.

To book an appointment, click here. 

The COVID-19 Care and Testing Centre at 1485 Heron Rd. is open from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday to Friday. The centre offers an appointment with a physician (including appropriate tests) for residents who are experiencing more significant symptoms like fever, difficulty breathing or a sore throat, or testing only for residents with mild symptoms or others who qualify for testing under current guidelines.

To book an appointment, click here.

The COVID-19 Care and Testing Centre at the Ray Friel Recreation Complex – 1585 Tenth Line Rd. is open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. It offers an appointment with a physician (including appropriate tests) for residents who are experiencing more significant symptoms like fever, difficulty breathing or a sore throat, or testing only for residents with mild symptoms or others who qualify for testing under current guidelines.

To book an appointment, click here.

The COVID-19 drive-thru assessment centre at the National Arts Centre. The centre is open seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

To book an appointment, click here.

The COVID-19 Assessment Centre at the McNabb Community Centre, located at 180 Percy Street, is open Monday to Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

To book an appointment, click here.

The Centretown Community Health Centre at 420 Cooper St. offers COVID-19 testing from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. To book an appointment, call 613-789-1500.

The Sandy Hill Community Health Centre at 221 Nelson St. offers COVID-19 testing from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday to Friday.  Click here to book an appointment or call 613-789-1500

The Somerset Community Health Centre at 55 Eccles St. will offer COVID-19 testing from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Thursday, and 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Friday. To book an appointment, call 613-789-1500.

See here for a list of other testing sites in Ottawa and eastern Ontario.

COVID-19 screening tool:

The COVID-19 screening tool for students heading back to in-person classes can be found here.

Symptoms:

Classic Symptoms: fever, new or worsening cough, shortness of breath

Other symptoms: sore throat, difficulty swallow, new loss of taste or smell, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, pneumonia, new or unexplained runny nose or nasal congestion

Less common symptoms: unexplained fatigue, muscle aches, headache, delirium, chills, red/inflamed eyes, croup

When a COVID-19 vaccine arrives in Ottawa, the city’s top doctor suggests the top priority will be using the vaccine to prevent hospitalizations and deaths in long-term care homes.

Health Canada expects to approve the Pfizer vaccine candidate in Canada by the end of the year.

Speaking on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron, Dr. Vera Etches said Ottawa Public Health will be working with the Federal government, the Ontario government and the City of Ottawa’s COVID-19 task force on rolling out the vaccine.

“What we’re anticipating is the initial supplies will come in the early part of the year but they’ll be limited in number. They’ll be for the priority groups, most likely trying to prevent hospitalizations and deaths. So where do we see the hospitalizations and deaths, mostly unfortunately from long-term care,” said Dr. Etches Thursday afternoon.

“So I know that will be a population we want to really be prepared to get the vaccine to people as soon as we receive it. That will probably be the initial focus for the first three months of the year.”

Ottawa restauranteurs want the Ontario government to extend a cap on delivery app fees to all restaurants and bars in Ontario, not just places in COVID-19 hot zones.

The Progressive Conservatives introduced legislation on Thursday that would give the province the authority to temporarily limit how much apps such as UberEats and DoorDash can charge restaurants in the lockdown COVID-19 restriction zone for their services.

While advocates say the move is a good start, local restauranteurs are also calling for the measure to be applied across the province.

“Nobody’s really going to the restaurants, it’s a very difficult time, whether you’re mandated to close or not, so lowering these fees definitely would be an incredible help,” said Andre Schad, owner of Jasper Sports Bar.

Uber Eats

Twenty-four more Ottawa residents have tested positive for COVID-19.

Ottawa Public Health reported 24 new cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa on Thursday. There are no new deaths linked to novel coronavirus.

Since the first case of COVID-19 in Ottawa on March 11, there have been 8,278 laboratory confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa, including 372 deaths.

Across Ontario, there were 1,478 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, including 572 new cases in Peel Region, 356 in Toronto and 111 in York Region.

New modelling suggests that in a worst-case scenario, Ontario could see more than 9,000 new cases of COVID-19 per day by the end of the year.

The modelling suggests that if COVID-19 cases grow at a rate of three per cent, Ontario will record more than 4,000 cases per day by Dec. 30.

If cases grow at a rate of five per cent, Ontario could see more than 9,000 cases per day by that date.

Cases of the novel coronavirus in Ontario have been growing at a much lower rate of 0.45 per cent over the past 14 days.

Students at some schools in Ottawa will be able to get tested for COVID-19, even if they’re not showing any symptoms of the virus.

The Ontario government announced “targeted voluntary testing” for asymptomatic students and staff at schools in Ottawa, Toronto, Peel and York Regions with high cases of COVID-19.

In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, the Ottawa COVID-19 Testing Taskforce said school-based testing would be considered at schools where individuals have tested positive and there’s a number of close contacts recommended to seek testing.

“While Ottawa has recently seen stabilizing or lowering COVID-19 indicators, the taskforce and its partners continue to seek opportunities to leverage testing capacity and break chains of virus transmission, especially in priority settings in our community such as schools, (long-term care homes), etc.,” said the taskforce.

“Our goal is to make it easier to get tested by providing the testing at or near the school. The focus is on individuals without symptoms, and symptomatic individuals are asked to seek testing from regional assessment centres or care clinics.”

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New Brunswick leaves Atlantic bubble as Nova Scotia reports 14 new COVID-19 cases Thursday – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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Nova Scotia is reporting 14 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, bringing the total number of active cases in the province to 114.

Twelve of the new cases are in the central health zone, which includes Halifax, Eastern Shore and West Hants. The other remaining cases are in the northern zone and the western zone.

It’s not clear whether the new cases are related to previously reported ones.

In a live briefing Thursday, Blair Higgs, the premier of New Brunswick, announced that New Brunswick will leave the Atlantic bubble.

“Effective midnight tonight, we’re resorting back to our original 14-days isolation for anyone from anywhere travelling into New Brunswick,” he said.

Exemptions for essential travel will continue, he added.

New Brunswick is the third province to reinstate the 14-day isolation for travellers from within Atlantic Canada. Newfoundland and Labrador and P.E.I. made the changes on Monday.

Negative, left, and positive rapid tests are seen at the rapid-testing pop-up site in the Richard Murray Design Building in Halifax on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020. – Tim Krochak

Nova Scotia Health Authority’s labs completed 2,253 Nova Scotia tests on Wednesday, the highest number of tests reported to date. There were 856 tests administered at the rapid-testing pop-up site in downtown Halifax on that day.

Five presumptive positive cases were identified at the pop-up site. The individuals were directed to self-isolate and have been referred for a standard test. Cases identified through rapid testing won’t be added to the total number of cases until they are confirmed by a standard test.

Rapid-testing clinics are targeted at people in the 18-35 age group or those who have been to or work at a bar in the Halifax Regional Municipality. Locations and times of the pop-up clinics, which could change every time, are announced on social media.

“We’ve seen a great uptake for asymptomatic testing among Halifax bar staff and patrons. People are showing us how much they care about their communities by going to these pop-up rapid testing locations,” said Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health in a news release. “This has allowed us to detect a few cases among asymptomatic people early on and helps to stop the spread of the virus.”

Late Wednesday evening, the Department of Health and Wellness released a new list of potential exposure sites, which includes numerous establishments across Halifax. And on Thursday evening, an additional six locations were added:

  • Stillwell (1672 Barrington St., Halifax) on Nov. 20 between 6 p.m. and 12:30 a.m. Watch for symptoms up to and including Dec. 4.
  • Bearly’s House of Blues and Ribs (1269 Barrington St., Halifax) on Nov. 20 between 8:30 p.m. and 2 a.m. Watch for symptoms up to and including Dec. 4.
  • Highwayman (1673 Barrington St., Halifax) on Nov. 21 between 7:30 p.m. and 12 a.m. Watch for symptoms up to and including Dec. 5.
  • Gahan House (5239 Sackville St., Halifax) on Nov. 21 between 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Watch for symptoms up to and including Dec. 5.
  • Princess Nails (1475 Bedford Highway, Bedford) on Nov. 21 between 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.  Watch for symptoms up to and including Dec. 5.
  • Boston Pizza Dartmouth Crossing (111 Shubie Dr., Dartmouth) on Nov. 20 between 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. and Nov. 22 between 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.  Watch for symptoms up to and including Dec. 6.

The department has created a new website that lists all of the potential exposure sites so far. There were 132 locations on the list as of Thursday evening. 

Starting today, new public health restrictions have come into effect in the Halifax and Hants counties. They include the closure of licensed establishments and bars for dine-in. Museums, libraries, and fitness and recreational facilities are also closed.

Over the past two months, Nova Scotia has had 167 positive COVID-19 cases, 38,434 negative test results. No one is currently in hospital.

A rapid COVID-19 test being administered at a pop-up COVID-19 testing site in the Ricard Murray Design Building on Morris Street in Halifax on Tuesday Nov. 24, 2020. -  - Tim Krochak
A rapid COVID-19 test being administered at a pop-up COVID-19 testing site in the Ricard Murray Design Building on Morris Street in Halifax on Tuesday Nov. 24, 2020. – – Tim Krochak

Numbers in Atlantic Canada

New Brunswick has 105 active cases as it reported 12 new cases Thursday.

Newfoundland and Labrador reported three new cases on Thursday, bringing the total number of active cases to 28.

Prince Edward Island has two active cases. No new cases were reported Thursday.

COVID-19 symptoms

Anyone who is currently experiencing or has experienced within the last 48 hours one of the following symptoms should visit https://covid-self-assessment.novascotia.ca for a self-assessment:

  • new or worsening cough
  • fever (i.e. chills or sweats)

People should also visit the website if they are experiencing two or more of the following symptoms (new or worsening):

  • sore throat
  • runny nose or nasal congestion
  • headache
  • shortness of breath

People can also call 811 if they can’t access the website or if they wish to speak to a nurse. Anyone experiencing symptoms should self-isolate until they receive advice from Public Health on what to do next.

Online booking for COVID-19 tests is available for all primary assessment sites. The swish and gargle COVID-19 test is available at all centres for children aged four to 18.

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