It has been an eventful time in the world of COVID-19 testing.
Last Thursday, the Couchiching COVID-19 Assessment Centre was thrilled to announce that we were one of the first to implement an automated registration process. With a scan of a health card and driver’s license, we are able to capture important details for registration and laboratory testing information. This innovation has helped improve our ability to see and test more patients per hour at our Assessment Centre. In fact, at times we were averaging less than one minute per test completed. This improvement could not have come soon enough.
Over the same week, we noticed the numbers of individuals requesting testing doubled from our usual volumes by the end of last week and then actually tripled from our usual volumes over the course of this week. We had been planning on increasing testing with the return of kids to school, but we did not expect it to grow so much so fast. We have visitors travelling long distances in hopes of shorter wait times. We have had folks present out of concern related to local reported outbreaks. I extend our sincerest apologies to all those who waited patiently in line. It was all hands on deck, with our teams working as quickly as we could and it was still not enough to keep pace.
Yesterday, the Ministry announced a change in recommendations that identifies more precisely who should be tested. The recommendations for COVID-19 testing include those who:
are showing COVID-19 symptoms
have been exposed to a confirmed case (informed by public health or the COVID-19 app)
are a resident or worker in a setting with a COVID-19 outbreak
are eligible based on targeted testing as outlined by the Ministry of Health
To simplify, unless someone has symptoms or has been explicitly told to get testing, testing is not recommended. Low risk individuals without symptoms should not be tested. Experts widely agree that testing without a clear reason, or “just in case” does not add value. For example, we know if only one child in the household has symptoms such as a runny nose, the remaining family members should not be tested, only the symptomatic child. Too many unnecessary tests can cause delays in reporting the tests where timing matters most such as knowing if a hospitalized patient with symptoms is in fact COVID-19 positive.
The Couchiching COVID-19 Assessment Centre team thinks that these new guidelines will help stabilize the number of people needing testing. We will be actively applying these guidelines effective immediately and will promote education and awareness along the way. We are equally confident that guidelines will continue to evolve and we will do our best to adapt and keep everyone informed as best we can.
Dr. Kim McIntosh
Medical Director, Couchiching COVID-19 Assessment Centre