B.C. preparing to more than double current testing capacity, as demand and case numbers go up
Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health both expanding testing capacity
By fall, B.C.'s health minister says the province intends to raise its COVID-19 testing capacity from 8,000 — where it is now — to 20,000 people a day.
Adrian Dix said Wednesday the increase should help B.C. meet increased demand for testing as the province heads into the cold and flu season. The disease caused by the novel coronavirus often presents similar symptoms to these wintertime ailments.
The announcement comes as case numbers are climbing again.
"By extending hours of service and adding new locations, we are helping ensure that assessment and testing is broadly available to people experiencing symptoms, when they need it," Dix said in a news release.
Dr. Victoria Lee, the president and CEO of Fraser Health, and Dr. Elizabeth Brodkin, the health authority's interim chief medical health officer, addressed reporters during a teleconference on Wednesday about expanding access to ensure people who are experiencing symptoms can quickly get assessed and tested if they need to.
"I know that some have expressed concerns or frustrations that they were turned away, but we are currently seeing about 30 per cent of people that do not have symptoms that are coming to our assessment and testing sites, and those people are not indicated for COVID-19 testing," Lee said.
Only those with symptoms or those directed by medical practitioners should be getting tested, Lee said.
The province is still seeing a low rate of positive tests — ranging from one to three per cent — which show testing is being done broadly, she added.
A number of reasons are driving the need to ramp up testing, she said, such as more new cases being identified, workplace requirements, people wanting to travel and those who are simply curious based on previous possible exposure to the virus.
Lee said some patients have complained about long wait-times, but pointed out that the B.C. Centre for Disease Control warns on its website that people can wait several hours for a test.
Fraser Health Authority outlines expanded testing
The health authority on Wednesday laid out the following steps for the coming days and weeks:
- Two new drive-thru lanes at the Burnaby centre.
- Increased staff at the Langley centre and extended hours of operation from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
- Expanded operating hours from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. seven days a week at the Abbotsford centre.
- Standardized service delivery model and data collection across all sites.
- Establishment of temporary high-volume testing and assessment centres in Surrey and the Fraser northwest area.
- Centralized pre-booking and pre-registration process to provide people with telephone and online access to book appointments and access information about wait times.
The health authority outlined several steps it has already taken, which include:
- Setting up greeters to triage lines in Langley and Burnaby, so only people with symptoms are in line to be assessed and possibly get a test.
- Bringing in more staff onsite and extending operating hours from noon to 8:30 p.m. every day at the Burnaby centre.
- Adding more operating hours from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays at the Delta centre.
- Opening the Chilliwack centre on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon.
- Setting up traffic control in Langley to streamline testing services.
- Creation of a testing-only line at the Surrey-Whalley Urgent and Primary Care Centre for those who have been directed by medical practitioners to get tested without receiving an assessment.
New testing site opens in Vancouver
Vancouver Coastal Health announced Wednesday that a new testing site on East Seventh Avenue between Keith Drive and Glen Drive will be open daily to the public from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on a first-come, first-served basis.
People can walk, roll or drive in without an appointment or referral, a statement from the health authority states.
"Identifying new cases of COVID-19 in a timely manner is important to help prevent community spread of the virus and this new assessment centre will contribute to those efforts," it reads.
Those who show up will be assessed prior to getting a test.
Vancouver Coastal Health says it is continuing to monitor cases throughout the region, and testing is not recommended for people without symptoms.
In the next couple of weeks, the news release says, another new assessment centre is expected to open, and some existing sites in Richmond and elsewhere will be open longer.
Anyone who is wondering if they need to be considered for a test can use the online COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool.
An online dashboard shows the different collection centres, which can be filtered by region, to find the closest and most convenient place to get tested.
Vancouver Coastal Health lists the following symptoms of COVID-19:
- Cough or worsening of chronic cough.
- Shortness of breath.
- Sore throat.
- Runny nose.
- Loss of sense of smell or taste.
- Loss of appetite.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Muscle aches.
Less common symptoms include:
- Stuffy nose.
- Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye.
- Dizziness or confusion.
- Abdominal pain.
- Skin rashes or discoloration of fingers or toes.
With files from Tanya Fletcher and Ben Mussett