COVID testing volume hits high in Manitoba amid concerns of limited testing capacity

COVID-19 testing volumes are the highest they’ve been since the pandemic started, which could cause a pile-up of samples needing to be analyzed, potentially pushing the turnaround time for results longer and longer.

Dynacare is contracted to do a large portion of collection and PCR COVID-19 tests for Manitoba. Dynacare’s chief scientific and medical director Dr. Jenisa Naidoo said Monday was the busiest day so far, both at collection sites and at the lab.

“So the demand is there and the demand is far exceeding supply and what we have the capacity to perform testing,” Naidoo said.

According to the province’s dashboard, close to 3,500 tests were performed on Monday. The province’s test positivity has increased to 8.6 per cent.

Naidoo said Dynacare can do 2,000 tests a day and, right now, the turnaround for results is two to three days. But that wait is likely to increase.

“We’re not just going to stand and put our hands up. We are actually trying to look for other alternatives and other options,” Naidoo said.

Options include sending overflow samples to other labs.

Dr. Philippe Lagacé-Wiens, a medical microbiologist at the St. Boniface Hospital, said there are other steps that can maximize testing.

“One obvious strategy is to prioritize testing and to prioritize certain populations that are highest risk and you’re going to start hearing about that,” Lagacé-Wiens said.

He said at-home rapid testing could also be used, though he said they are not ideal and need to come with careful instructions from public health.

“It’s remarkable. I never expected I would ever say that about a pandemic, but it may come to the fact that we need to utilize those resources,” he said. “But we really need to utilize them well and educate people on how to use them and what to do with those results.”

Lagacé-Wiens said, if testing results are delayed beyond four days, especially with the more transmissible omicron variant, you start to lose that useful window for contact tracing.

If that happens, he said people may need to start calling their close contacts as soon as they notice those tell-tale COVID-19 symptoms.

The province said testing turn around times have been around 30 hours for the last two weeks. It increased to 37 hours on Saturday and 36 hours on Monday.

A provincial spokesperson told CTV News Winnipeg that the government is aware of the increased demand for testing.

“It’s premature to indicate if that is a result of new cases or the new variant,” they said in an emailed statement to CTV News Winnipeg. “The province is working on a system to greatly increase the use of rapid testing.”

Until then, Manitobans wanting to know if they’re positive will have to wait. 

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