Nova Scotia reported 187 new cases of COVID-19 over the long weekend, and although the number of positive cases seems low, infectious disease expert Dr. Lisa Barrett points to the low number of tests processed at the Nova Scotia Health Authority’s labs over the weekend.
“The number of cases goes down when the denominator or the number of people getting tested goes down,” said Barrett.
“And so do I really believe that those case numbers are right? Probably not if the number of people getting tested is going down.”
Because COVID-19 can spread without symptoms, Barrett says if we are only testing for close contacts and people with symptoms, we can be missing upwards of 30 per cent of cases in the community.
“That’s one of the reasons we shouldn’t stop testing,” said Barrett. “We need to make sure we are getting tested, even after first doses.”
On Tuesday Nova Scotia reported 54 new cases of COVID-19, there are currently 856 active cases in the province, but on Monday the province processed 3,973 tests, that’s the lowest number of tests completed during the third wave of the lockdown.
Nova Scotia public health is once again encouraging people to make testing part of their covid-19 defence strategy, saying it’s an essential component to crushing this third wave.
“Vaccination is a primary pillar to our way out of this but we know that full protection doesn’t occur until after two vaccines,” said Dr. Todd Hatchette, chief of microbiology with Nova Scotia Health. “The wild card of the variants is always one thing that hangs over our heads, and the only way you can really keep an eye on what’s happening in the community is getting out and getting tested.”
Those long lines outside the COVID-19 rapid testing sites that we saw early in the third wave are no longer the case, said Dr. Marianne Standford, site lead at the Alderney Gate public library rapid testing site.
“At our peak, we were seeing 1,000 to 1,200 people come through a day,” said Stanford. “Now we are down around 400 to 600 a day, so we certainly have more capacity.”
This is just at the Alderney Landing rapid testing site. The same goes for other locations like the Halifax Convention Centre, where 20 people were lined up for a test before the doors opened at noon on Tuesday.
Stanford says rapid testing can’t be a one-and-done solution it needs to be incorporated into people’s day-to-day life, as we continue to work our way through the pandemic.
“We’ve seen people every day coming in and this is their first rapid test and that is great and then we also have a bunch of other people who come in regularly, once a week or twice a week, depending on what they are doing on a day to day basis and we encourage both,” said Stanford.
As the vaccine rollout continues, it looks like it will be a one-dose summer for most Nova Scotians, which means keeping testing part of our routines is key to limiting another outbreak of the virus.
“Until we get our second doses behind us and we are absolutely certain of being able to keep track of virus that comes into our province,” said Barrett. “Until we get those two things well in hand, we will have to continue to keep up with weekly testing or else we will end up at high risk for further outbreaks.”
These rapid pop-up testing sites have accounted for detecting 10 percent of the positive COVID-19 cases during this third wave said Hatchette, they are effective if people continue to use them.
“We’re easily able to process and turn around 10 to 12,000 tests a day and maintain our turn around time,” said Hatchette.
“The public should be reassured we have the capacity and to make sure all Nova Scotians should make testing a regular part of their COVID life.”