British Columbia

B.C. sees record number of COVID-19 tests as restrictions lift

A respirologist with Vancouver's St. Paul's Hospital says more interactions will lead to more COVID-19 testing in B.C. — and that's a good thing.

Spike in COVID-19 testing does not necessarily mean increase in coronavirus transmission, doctors say

A server takes an order from patrons at a restaurant in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia on Tuesday, June 22, 2021. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The province has seen a record number of COVID-19 tests being administered in the last week alone, with this Wednesday's record-breaking 18,007 tests exceeding Tuesday's previous record of 15,890 tests, according to the B.C. COVID-19 dashboard

But the spike in COVID-19 testing does not necessarily mean an increase in coronavirus transmission, doctors say.

"I think it is expected ... The increased [social] interactions are undoubtedly leading to dissemination of just common respiratory viruses for sure," said Dr. Bradley Quon, a respirologist at St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver and associate professor of medicine at the University of British Columbia.

This time last year, around 5,000 COVID-19 tests were being administered. 

Dr. Bradley Quon says the increase in social gatherings and in-person events will inevitably see the spread of other respiratory viruses. (Dr. Bradley Quon)

With restaurants opening up to more diners, people gathering indoors and in-person classes resuming, Quon says the rise of other concerns is inevitable. 

"We're seeing like [a] record number of patients in the hospital. Part of that is being driven by COVID ... [and] seeing more you know hospitalizations likely related to other viruses where we did not see them at all during the pandemic, when [people] were kind of isolating themselves," he said.

Dr. Laura Sauvé, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at B.C. Children's Hospital, echoes Quon.

"[With] school going back in we're seeing more other viruses circulating now than we saw last winter. We're seeing more cases of parainfluenza, respiratory virus and rhino viruses which can make kids sick but are not COVID," she said.

Dr. Laura Sauvé says doctors in other parts of the world as also "bracing" themselves for more cases of parainfluenza, respiratory virus and rhino viruses. (Provincial Health Services Authority)

She says this is on par with what other parts of the world have been seeing, and doctors are "bracing ... for that here in B.C. as well."

But Quon warns British Columbians not to take false comfort in the resurgence of other viruses and infections.

He says even if it's a long wait time to get a COVID-19 test, or if you suspect a different virus behind your symptoms, take the test anyway.

Both Quon and Sauvé say it's the best way to protect yourself and others.

"The surge in testing, I think that's the right thing to be doing right now. It's not easy to distinguish COVID from other respiratory viruses. The only way to know that is to get tested," Quon said.

Either way, whether it's COVID-19 or not, stay home until you're symptom-free, the doctors say.

"I think for a long time many people were just used to continuing on and continuing with normal activities when they had a bad cold," Sauvé said. "But I hope we're going to see more change."

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