Experts fear true number of COVID-19 cases in B.C. could be higher as province hits testing capacity
Province providing self-administered rapid tests in some cases, with positive results not part of total
Experts are saying B.C. could be undercounting COVID-19 cases as the province hits its testing capacity amid its worst surge of infections yet.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Friday that the province had reached maximum capacity on testing and contact tracing.
She added that with hours-long lines at testing sites the province was "triaging" tests by providing rapid antigen tests to those at lesser risk, saving the more accurate polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for those at higher risk.
"If you are younger and don't have underlying risk factors, particularly if you're vaccinated, then rapid testing may be the most efficient way for you to get what you need," Henry said Friday.
She said PCR testing should be available for those most at risk, as well as health-care workers who need negative tests to work. The people most at risk, according to Henry, include older people, immunocompromised people, and young children.
The province conducted 21,123 PCR tests on Dec. 23, the most ever, and identified 2,414 cases on Christmas Eve, a record number driven by the more infectious Omicron variant.
All those cases came from positive PCR tests, the province later told CBC News. With positive rapid tests not factored into daily case numbers — and a ceiling of around 20,000 daily PCR tests — experts say future pandemic analysis will be murkier.
One other note: the province got back to me, and said if people are sent home from testing sites with a rapid test, it's not included in the official numbers, even if they self report positive.<br><br>Means there will be an artificial cap on daily case counts.<a href="https://t.co/mkMOVGKfeR">https://t.co/mkMOVGKfeR</a>—@j_mcelroy
"[Hitting the testing capacity] will make it harder to interpret the data," said Caroline Colijn, a mathematician and Canada 150 research chair at Simon Fraser University.
"We won't know how many tests we would have done if we had not been running up against capacity."
Colijn is part of an independent modelling group that predicted record hospitalizations