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Interior health officials innovating to get coronavirus testing to rural areas

Province explains why it is not saying which B.C. communities have coronavirus cases
As of Monday morning, the case count in the Interior Health region was still sitting at two. However, it’s unclear where in the region those patients are located. As Megan Turcato reports, health officials' practice of not naming communities where cases have been confirmed is raising a lot questions.

British Columbia’s provincial health officer said Monday that getting coronavirus testing to the province’s more rural areas is a challenge and that health officials are innovating to try and meet the need.

Dr. Bonnie Henry said in both the north and Interior of B.C., health officials have done things like getting a public health nurse to go to someone’s home for testing or having a patient do a “drive-by test” in the parking lot of a health-care facility.

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“It is a challenge, as you know the rural areas are quite spread out and they don’t have as much risk but consequences if somebody is positive and transmitting in a rural area can be much greater,” said Henry.

“Those are things that we’ve been looking at both for the Interior and the north for how to ensure that access to testing is there when it’s needed. It is a challenge, how do we get the test out there?”

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As of Monday morning, Henry said she was only aware of two cases in the Interior Health region.

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However, she said, other people are being tested.

Henry also explained why the province isn’t releasing information about in which communities in the Interior those cases are located.

B.C. health officials report 30 new cases of coronavirus, 3 deaths
B.C. health officials report 30 new cases of coronavirus, 3 deaths

“Like the Lower Mainland, with the exception of outbreaks which is where we have identified facilities in particular, we have kept it very general to the health authority region for a variety of reasons. One, because people we know have been identified by public health if they’ve been at risk and that’s been the case for school settings and other settings,” said Henry.

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“As it is starting to move into many different communities, we’ll see the risk doesn’t change [in different areas]. What we want people to do, what we need people to do is the same across the health region and so anybody who is sick needs to stay home and stay away from others.”

READ MORE: B.C. urges U.S. citizens to stay away as province records 3 new coronavirus deaths

There was some lack of clarity about the number of cases in the Interior at Monday’s press availability with Henry and the province’s health minister.

At the same press conference, where Henry said there are two cases in the Interior, she also said the number of cases in the Interior had increased.

Henry on Saturday announced the region’s second presumptive case.

Global News has asked the province’s Health Ministry and Interior Health to clarify this issue and the story will be updated once that information is available.