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Rapid tests slow to be used as health officials unsure of reliability, best use – Similkameen Spotlight

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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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COVID-19 in B.C.: Over 2000 new cases and 46 deaths on weekend, five healthcare outbreaks, and more – The Georgia Straight

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Tragically, this past weekend has proven to be the most fatal time period that B.C. has witnessed during the course of the pandemic so far, with the largest number of deaths over a three-day period.

Meanwhile, new case counts remain high and the number of active and hospitalized cases continue to climb.

There were also five new healthcare outbreaks, and 14 stores and 23 flights with confirmed cases.

Henry explained that the process is “arduous” and involves many epidemiologists across the province, and that as case numbers increase, the process becomes even more challenging.

The data error announced on November 25 was rectified over the weekend, with changes reflected in today’s case numbers.

Accordingly, Henry said that they will be further automating their process, which will allow epidemiologists to spend more time on understanding the outbreaks and clusters in the community.

She said the daily numbers are important but that they look more at trends rather than individual days, which she has explained in the past can reflect a number of factors.

She said they will be adding the seven-day rolling daily average and talking more about it in the coming weeks to help people understand it.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix
Province of British Columbia

At today’s in-person briefing, Henry provided updates for the past three time periods:

  • 750 new cases from November 27 to 28;
  • 731 new cases from November 28 to 29;
  • 596 new cases from November 29 to 30.

In addition, due to the correction to the data-reporting error from Fraser Health (based on a technical issue which has since been rectified), there were an additional 277 historical cases added.

Accordingly, there was a total of 2,354 new cases (including 10 epi-linked cases) over the weekend period.

The new case count includes, by region:

  • 1,365 new cases (including 277 historical cases) in Fraser Health;
  • 212 in Interior Health;
  • 73 in Northern Health;
  • 58 in Island Health;
  • one person from outside Canada.

Active cases have increased by 383 cases since November 20, rising to a total of 8,855 active cases as of today.

At the moment, there are 316 people in hospital (15 more than November 20), with 75 of those patients in intensive care units (six more than November 20).

One area that has decreased is the number of people being monitored by public health—the number dropped by 291 people since November 20 to 10,139 people today.

A total of 23,111 people have now recovered.

Sadly, B.C. had 46 deaths over the past three days, which Henry said is the highest-ever count. She also said that about 80 percent of the deaths were people in longterm care facilities. The eldest person who died this past weekend was 103 years old, Henry said.

Of the 46 deaths, Dix said there were:

  • 15 deaths from November 27 to 28;
  • 17 deaths from November 28 to 29—which establishes a new high;
  • 14 deaths from November 29 to 30.

The previous record was 13 deaths on November 26, which all three of the past days surpassed.

Dix also explained that 35 of those deaths in Fraser Health with the other 11 deaths in Vancouver Coastal Health.

The total number of deaths is now at 441 people who have died during the pandemic.

B.C. has recorded a cumulative total amount of 33,238 cases, which includes:

  • 21,070 cases in Fraser Health;
  • 8,850 in Vancouver Coastal Health;
  • 1,750 in Interior Health;
  • 845 in Northern Health;
  • 629 in Island Health;
  • 94 people from outside Canada.

Unfortunately, there are five new healthcare outbreaks:

  • Veterans Memorial Lodge at Broadmead (4579 Chatterton Way) in Victoria, where Island Health stated that one staff member has tested positive and is limited to one unit;
  • St. Judes Anglican Home (810 W 27th Avenue) in Vancouver, where Vancouver Coastal Health imposed restrictions on November 26;
  • Lakeview Care Centre (3490 Porter Street) in Vancouver, where Vancouver Coastal Health imposed restrictions on November 26;
  • Fleetwood Villa (16028 83rd Avenue) in Surrey, where Fraser Health stated the one resident has tested positive;
  • Mountainview Village (1540 KLO Road) in Kelowna, where Interior Health stated that one resident and one staff member tested positive, and that the outbreak applies to both east and west units on the second floor.

In addition, one facility that wasn’t on Henry’s list was PICS Assisted Living Centre (12075 75A Avenue) in Surrey, where Fraser Health stated today that one resident and one staff member have tested positive.

One healthcare outbreak has been declared over: Louis Brier Home in Vancouver.

Henry said there are active outbreaks in 57 longterm care facilities and five acute care units for a total of 62 healthcare facilities. 

She also said there are 1,338 active cases (847 residents and 487 staff) involved in healthcare outbreaks.

Fraser Health declared one community outbreak at Newton Elementary (13359 81st Avenue) in Surrey, which has been temporarily closed for two weeks.

The list of schools with new exposures will be published in a separate forthcoming article.

Over the past three days, there have been 14 stores with employees who have tested positive.

Sobeys announced that four of its Safeway locations had staff members who tested positive:

  • one employee who last worked on November 18 at the 1766 Robson Street location in Vancouver;
  • one employee who last worked on November 19 at the 1780 East Broadway location in Vancouver.
  • one employee who last worked on November 24 at the 2101 Lahb Avenue location in Vancouver;
  • one employee who last worked on November 26 at the 6564 East Hastings Street location in Burnaby.

In addition, Sobeys announced an employee who last worked on November 18 at the FreshCo location at 7165 138th Street in Surrey tested positive.

Meanwhile, Loblaw announced seven of its stores had staff members who tested postive.

One employee who tested positive last worked on November 23 at Joti’s No Frills (310 West Broadway) in Vancouver.

Another employee who tested positive last worked on November 25 at Your Independent Grocer (1255 Davie Street) in Vancouver’s West End.

The remaining five stores were Real Canadian Superstore locations, including:

  • two employees who last worked on November 18 and 21 at the 2332 160th Street location in Surrey;
  • two employees who last worked on November 19 and 23 at the 3185 Grandview Highway location in Vancouver;
  • one employee who last worked on November 23 at the 8195 120th Street location in Delta;
  • one employee who last worked on November 23 at the 2280 Baron Road location in Kelowna;
  • one employee who last worked on November 24 at the 14650 104th Avenue location in Surrey.

Meanwhile, T&T Supermarket reported that a backroom employee who last worked on November 26 at the Metrotown location (147–4800 Kingsway Avenue) in Burnaby has tested positive.

Canadian Tire reported an employee who tested positive last worked on November 16 at its Prince George location (5008 Domano Boulevard).

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) added 23 flights to its lists of flights confirmed with COVID-19:

  • November 15: Air Canada 45, Delhi to Vancouver;
  • November 15: Air Canada 114, Vancouver to Toronto;
  • November 17: Air Canada 314, Vancouver to Montreal;
  • November 17: Air Canada 8421, Kelowna to Vancouver;
  • November 18: Air Canada 202, Vancouver to Calgary;
  • November 19: Air Canada 103, Vancouver to Toronto;
  • November 19: Air Canada 114, Vancouver to Toronto;
  • November 19: Air Canada 225, Calgary to Vancouver;
  • November 20: Flair 8102, Calgary to Vancouver;
  • November 22: Aeromexico AM696, Mexico City to Vancouver;
  • November 22: Air Canada 1126, Kelowna to Vancouver;
  • November 22: WestJet WS139, Calgary to Vancouver;
  • November 22: Air Canada AC311, Montreal to Vancouver;
  • November 22: WestJet Flight 3455, Calgary to Abbotsford;
  • November 23: Air Canada AC854, Vancouver to London;
  • November 24: Air Canada Flight 554, Vancouver to Los Angeles;
  • November 25: United Airlines Flight 5312, San Francisco to Vancouver;
  • November 25: Cathay Pacific 865, Vancouver to Hong Kong;
  • November 25: United Airlines 1641, Denver to Vancouver;
  • November 26: Air Canada AC121, Toronto to Vancouver;
  • November 26: Air Canada AC8081, Vancouver to Victoria;
  • November 27: Air Canada AC0044, Vancouver to Delhi;
  • November 27: Air Canada 8417, Kelowna to Vancouver.

For affected row information, visit the BCCDC website.

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Toronto reports highest single-day case count – CityNews Toronto

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Ontario NDP calls for more asymptomatic COVID-19 testing in schools after 19 new cases discovered – CTV Toronto

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TORONTO —
NDP MPPs are calling on the Ford government to conduct widespread COVID-19 testing at all schools in the province’s hardest hit neighbourhoods after asymptomatic testing at an East York elementary school unearthed 19 previously undetected infections.

Members of the official opposition are urging the provincial government to immediately deploy resources to facilitate voluntary testing centres inside schools in Ontario neighbourhoods with high COVID-19 positivity rates.

“Doug Ford is trying to save a buck by underserving the hardest hit areas,” NDP Deputy Leader and Brampton Centre MPP Sara Singh said in a news release issued Monday.

“He has been refusing to send extra help to hot spots, because he wants to do things on the cheap. That’s resulting in longer, deeper lockdowns and more devastating illness. We need help to end this nightmare, and stop the virus from hurting our loved ones.”

On Sunday, it was revealed that asymptomatic testing at one Thorncliffe Park elementary school resulted in 18 students and one staff member testing positive for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

In a letter sent to parents yesterday, the principal of Thorncliffe Park Public School said Toronto Public Health detected the cases after 433 tests were processed on Thursday and Friday.

Thorncliffe Park is one of the neighbourhoods in the GTA that has been hardest hit by the pandemic.

Speaking at a news conference on Monday afternoon, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said that the data indicate that community transmission in Thorncliffe Park is substantially worse than the transmission happening within the school.

“I think it should be noted that the principal within this school has communicated that the positivity rate compared from the community to the school is quite vast. In the community, it is roughly 16 per cent positivity whereas in the school it is roughly four per cent,” he said.

“There is a four time increase of transmission happening in the community notwithstanding that those schools are right at the heart of those neighbourhoods.”

He said the disparity indicates that there is “something right happening” when it comes to the “layers of prevention” occurring in the public school system.

“The fact that hundreds of students and staff have gotten tested in this school in conjunction with the local public health unit, I think underscores that the plan in place is working hard to mitigate any further spread,” Lecce said.

“This morning, including the data points from Thorncliffe, 99.9 per cent of Ontario students are COVID-free and that continues to underscore the importance of following public health advice and it really I think demonstrates the importance of keeping schools open, which is our plan for 2021.”

Roughly 14 per cent of the province’s 4,828 publicly funded schools have at least one reported case of COVID-19 and at least four schools are currently closed as a result of outbreaks of the disease.

Province changed testing guidelines last week

Just last week, the province adjusted its COVID-19 testing guidance for school staff and students in Toronto, York Region, Peel Region and Ottawa to allow voluntary asymptomatic testing.

The province also offered school boards in the regions an additional $35 million to strengthen public health measures.

The testing pilot, which is in place for four weeks, was implemented to better track how the virus is spreading in and around schools.

Since late September, Ontario’s assessment centres would not test asymptomatic people unless they were linked to a known case.

The NDP called the funding and four-week testing program a “half-measure.”

“Some students in some regions may be able to get tests. According to the government, the location and method for testing will vary between regions and cities, regions will have to develop their own plan,” the NDP said in a news release last week.

“Ford’s still trying to cheap out on testing students, teachers and staff, and that’s not good enough.”

Infectious diseases specialist Dr. Abdu Sharkawy said he believes the discovery at Thorncliffe Park Public School is an imporant one.

“We know that children tend to be minimally, if not symptomatic at all, but they appear to be quite good at spreading this,” he told CP24 on Monday.

“So we need to be quite aware of whether or not there is any asymptomatic signal within our younger children to prevent that from spreading to others in a multi-generational household or others who are certainly going to be at a higher risk if they acquire COVID-19 and become a lot sicker.”

Sharkawy said he hopes the province continues to expand asymptomatic testing in schools.

“There are a lot of asymptomatic people out there who are infected with this virus and unfortunately until we ramp up our testing capacity and ideally target areas that appear to be harder hit, we won’t really know the extent of the disease that’s out there,” he told CP24 on Monday.

“I think that this was actually an important finding. I don’t think it is one that should create too much alarm amongst people sending their children to school but I hope it is a pilot program that will catch on, especially in other areas that are hard hit.”

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