‘Rapid tests could be a screening tool’: COVID-19 cases in B.C. care homes continue to rise

Click to play video: 'Calls for new approach to help B.C. long-term care residents during pandemic'
Calls for new approach to help B.C. long-term care residents during pandemic
COVID-19 outbreaks are again sweeping through British Columbia's long-term care homes. As Robin Gill reports, the surge is renewing calls for better approaches to helping the most vulnerable. – Dec 1, 2020

As the second wave of COVID-19 continues in B.C. some are calling for rapid testing to be implemented in long-term care homes where surging infections come at a great cost.

“We obviously have much more significant community spread than we did and we obviously have many more care homes experiencing an outbreak, more than twice as many are in outbreak right now than at the peak of our outbreaks in wave one,” British Columbia’s advocate for seniors, Isobel Mackenzie, told Global News Tuesday.

She believes they are seeing more spread and more fatalities than they did in wave one earlier this year.

Rapid testing of all staff and residents could be used as a tool to help stop the spread of the virus, she said, with the capacity to turn results around in as little as 15 minutes.

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Read more: Rapid COVID-19 testing trialed at Vancouver International Airport

“We now know about presymptomatic and asymptomatic transmission. We used to think you could only be contagious if you were showing symptoms, we now know that’s not true and the symptoms are so subtle sometimes people don’t recognize them,” Mackenzie added.

“The second thing is, in wave one we focused to a large extent on the transmission from care staff to resident, resident to care staff. I think what we underestimated was transmission from care staff to care staff. And that is some of what we are seeing now.”

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: B.C.’s seniors advocate calls for rapid testing in long-term care homes'
Coronavirus: B.C.’s seniors advocate calls for rapid testing in long-term care homes

Mackenzie said staff is less attuned to using their PPE and taking preventative measures when they are together, whether that be in the break room or driving to work together.

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She added that rapid tests can be used as a screening tool, just like a health-care questionnaire. It would not replace washing hands, wearing PPE or keeping a distance from others.

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“It’s just another added layer of detection and protection.”

Read more: Health Canada approves first Canadian-made rapid COVID-19 test

B.C. resident, Lesley Telford, whose mom Sandy is a resident at Good Samaritan Delta View Care Centre, said she would welcome the addition of rapid testing at the facility.

“I believe that everyone is trying their best, however, there are 20 cases of staff members with the virus in my mother’s care home, there are nine residents. I believe there have been four deaths up to this point and I think we could do better in controlling and asymptomatic testing of staff,” she said Tuesday.

Telford added this is the second outbreak at the care home.

“I’m worried about the quality of life as people are in lockdown,” she said.

“I do believe we can do more testing. I think, within all of this, we do have to pay more attention to their quality of life. We can’t lock people away indefinitely.”

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Telford said she thinks they can be more proactive to try and control the virus within care homes and not just reactive when the cases show up.

“I would love to see staff tested on a once-a-week basis. I would really advocate for regular testing and asymptomatic testing,” Telford added.

Read more: Coronavirus: B.C. announces new rules on visiting long-term care homes

Dr. Victoria Lee, president and CEO of Fraser Health, said they are still seeing cases in communities that are then being translated into COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care homes and other worksites.

She said they are putting additional measures in place in those areas, including enhancing infection prevention control measures, and they can deploy one of the new Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI) robots, used to kill viruses and bacteria using UV light.

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“Currently we do carry out widespread testing so when we do have concerns about transmission in a unit, we do a rapid testing of all staff and patients and residents within that unit. So I think we have enhanced our testing strategy as well,” Lee said.

Click to play video: 'Calls for mass testing in B.C. care homes'
Calls for mass testing in B.C. care homes

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