Nova Scotia’s testing for COVID-19 went mobile for the first time on Wednesday.
The use of the 20-foot vans as mobile testing units is part of a new strategy for Nova Scotia Health during the coronavirus pandemic as a second wave of cases sweeps through the province.
It’s the first mobile testing unit of its kind in Atlantic Canada and on Wednesday, one of the province’s two such units was at the North East Kings Education Centre in Canning, N.S., after two cases were recently detected at the school.
The unit was there to test close contacts of the two cases at the school in the Annapolis Valley that serves students from Grade 6 and Grade 12.
All classes have shifted to online learning for students and officials confirmed that more than 70 close contacts were tested on Wednesday.
“Public health is really CSI work. Our investigators are constantly chasing the virus,” said Holly Gillis, a public health manager with Nova Scotia Health.
“Our contact tracing helps us identify where it might have travelled or where it might have gone and these mobile units are part of that toolbox to help us understand and get some testing to people so we can see where the virus is showing up.”
Why test close contacts rather than everybody at the school?
Not everyone in the school was tested or needed to be tested, as Dr. Austin Zigmunt, a resident doctor with Nova Scotia Health, explained to Global News on Wednesday.
He says that it’s part of Nova Scotia’s tactics towards dealing with cases, especially now with the confirmation of community spread in the Halifax-region.
“In Canning, we have two individuals who are connected through a school, but they’re not connected to each other,” Zigmunt said.
So the idea is to test the individuals, who over the two weeks before the infection began, would be considered close contacts of the two people who’ve tested positive for the virus.
“(It’s) try and see if there’s anyone might have COVID-19 but they didn’t know about it,” he said.
The mobile units are able to travel the province and are staffed with a team of public health nurses, investigators and administrators trained in testing and tracing COVID-19.
The Northeast Kings Education Centre partnered with Nova Scotia Health in order to allow for the testing, support the community and ensure the testing went smoothly.
“Having them next to us doing their work so that we can do our work, which is educating the children is the most important part,” said Dave Jones, regional executive director of education with the Annapolis Valley Regional Center for Education.
Jones says the transition to online for students has gone to plan.
But now that the testing of close contacts and a deep clean and sanitization of the school is complete that the Northeast Kings Education Centre will reopen its door on Monday.
“We have no concerns whatsoever that the school is not to the level we would want it, in order to be a safe learning environment for students,” said Jones.
— With files from Global News’ Aya Al-Hakim and Jesse Thomas