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Group calls for mass COVID-19 testing at care homes with confirmed cases

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Calls for mass testing at long-term care facilities – Nov 4, 2020

A B.C. workplace health and safety group is calling for mass testing in any of the province’s care homes that record a case of COVID-19.

SafeCare BC, an industry-funded non-profit advocating for B.C.’s 28,000 continuing care workers, said Wednesday that staff in such facilities are “living in fear” that they’ll bring the disease home with them.

Read more: Long-term care residents would rather see loved ones than be safe from COVID-19, B.C. advocate says

“Instead of waiting for a resident to test positive or another staff member to test positive, we do a mass testing strategy right off the bat,” SafeCare BC CEO Jen Lyle said.

“So we’re not waiting for people to show symptoms, we’re trying to catch them earlier in the process so we can ultimately minimize the size of an outbreak when it happens.”

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The group points to Ontario and Alberta as examples of jurisdictions which have implemented similar policies.

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In addition to easing workers’ mental wellbeing, a mass testing program would also boost safety in care homes amid growing numbers of family visitors, Lyle argued.

With rising community transmission comes a corresponding rising risk of outbreaks in residential care homes, Lyle said.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: B.C. announces new rules on visiting long-term care homes

More than 1,187 cases and 187 deaths have been recorded in B.C.’s health-care system, most of them in long-term care and assisted living facilities.

Of those cases, 467 have involved staff.

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When staff test positive, they must stay home and isolate for two weeks, adding pressure to an existing staffing crunch in such facilities, Lyle said.

Lyle added that she’d also like the province to look at ways to deploy rapid testing in care facilities to help with screening of staff and visitors at the door.

Global News has requested comment from the Ministry of Health on the proposal.