Manitoba official admits wait times unknown for COVID test results due to backlog

Manitoba's deputy chief provincial public health officer admits he doesn't know the average wait time for PCR test results.

Deputy chief provincial public health officer Jazz Atwal says he's heard it's 5 to 6 days

Dr. Jazz Atwal, deputy chief provincial public health officer for Manitoba admits he used anecdotal information to answer a question about wait times for PCR test results. (CBC)

Manitoba's deputy chief provincial public health officer admits he doesn't know the average wait time for PCR test results.

On Tuesday, Dr. Jazz Atwal said wait times for PCR testing results were between five to six days. 

On Wednesday, he admitted those figures were based on anecdotes, not data.

"That was a number I heard about, that people were waiting multiple days. That was not the [average], I don't know what that number is at the present time because there is a large backlog," said Atwal at a news conference in which he said a backlog of 6,800 tests still need to be processed. 

Anecdotes coming into CBC News show even longer delays.

Andrew Eastman spent Christmas alone with his cats Sid and Bone (not pictured) because he was self-isolating while awaiting COVID-19 test results. (Submitted by Andrew Eastman)

Andrew Eastman waited 12 days for his test result to come back negative. He got tested on Dec. 23 and got his negative result on Jan. 4.

The wait cost him Christmas with his family and being alone in his apartment took a toll on his mental health. 

"It was pretty isolating, especially after Christmas had wrapped up … knowing that I couldn't leave my apartment," said Eastman, who is triple vaccinated.

He considers himself fortunate to have a comfortable place to live and two cats — Bone and Sid — to keep him company.

"I know a lot of people would have a harder time isolating for that period, but I did have to decide to not spend any of the holidays in person with my family or friends," said Eastman. He said he did enjoy a Zoom Christmas with his family. 

Eastman says he wishes there was more transparency from provincial health authorities. 

Others who have shared their wait times with CBC showed similar waits.

This screenshot of a positive COVID-19 PCR test shows a 12-day wait for results. Eastman also waited 12 days but tested negative. (Submitted)

The minister responsible for the Manitoba's testing task force, Reg Helwer, acknowledged that the wait times for PCR test results were too long at a briefing last week without specifying how long is too long. 

"That's why we did introduce the rapid tests to those facilities to accelerate that for individuals," said Helwer. 


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