Manitoba warns of 4-day turnaround for COVID-19 test results as province hits capacity
Current COVID-19 case counts may actually be an underreporting as a result, province said Thursday
Manitoba has reached its capacity to process COVID-19 test specimens.
That capacity has been hit amid high demand for tests at COVID-19 collection sites, resulting in increased wait times for tests as well as test results, the province said in a Thursday afternoon news release.
As a result, it is expected that the current COVID-19 case counts are actually an underreporting across the province, the news release said. Manitoba reported 556 new cases on Thursday.
Rosemary Asenjo's husband, son and one of her twin daughters are among Manitoba's 2,933 active COVID-19 cases.
Asenjo and her other twin daughter waited at a Winnipeg COVID-19 testing site for three hours Wednesday before being turned away.
They returned Thursday, one of an endless row of vehicles lined up down King Edward Street, waiting up to four or five hours to receive a swab at the nearby testing site.
In recent days, there has been high demand for COVID-19 testing as cases stemming from the rapidly spreading Omicron virus variant.
Asenjo brought crayons and a colouring book for her daughter, who has symptoms following a COVID-19 outbreak at her school, to help the time pass quicker.
"It's challenging and quite difficult," Asenjo said.
They weren't the only ones lined up for a second consecutive day.
"I tried coming yesterday but like the line was like five blocks down still so we didn't even bother yesterday," Holly Missyabit said.
After waiting about five hours Thursday, Missyabit was finally nearing the front of the line – wishing rapid testing was more widely available in Manitoba.
"I feel like they should have rapid tests. I feel like half of the people that are coming to get tested today are either travelling or just it's for the holidays," she said.
The current testing backlog is estimated to be more than 7,500 specimens.
The turnaround time for results of a COVID-19 test right now is four days or more, the province said.
Only people who are experiencing COVID-19, cold or flu-like symptoms should go to a testing site, Thursday's news release said.
Manitobans are also asked to be patient and kind to others in line as well as those working at the collection sites.
Dana Nichols has a runny nose and sore throat. As someone who works with vulnerable people in the health-care system, she joined the line on King Edward Street at about 7:15 a.m.
She kept herself busy by scrolling through an array of social media channels during her five-plus-hour wait.
"I think everybody's just trying to be safe with the holidays coming up and seeing their family. I don't think there [are] enough sites but I also don't think there's enough people to staff more sites, so it's a double-edged sword.
"I also don't think we probably have enough tests to open up more sites either," Nichols said.
She would also like to see an uptick in rapid testing, something the province has said it plans to announce shortly.
"I think it's nice because it's something more accessible than this is for some people," Nichols said. "Having that available for more people I think will definitely be beneficial in helping keep our cases down."
In an effort to prioritize testing for individuals with symptoms, the province says tests completed at provincial test sites are not valid for travel purposes, the province said.
Manitobans who need a test for travel purposes should go to a private provider rather than a provincial testing site.
The province is encouraging everyone to continue following public health orders, limit contact with others and focus on fundamentals to limit the spread of COVID-19.
That includes getting fully vaccinated or going for a third vaccine dose as soon as you are eligible, the province said.
Asenjo has already received her third dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
She hopes both her daughters won't have to be in isolation over Christmas like her son and husband, but if that's the case they still plan to celebrate the holiday.
"We'll just celebrate after isolation," Asenjo said.
With files from Erin Brohman