As long lines at testing sites and days-long waits for results continue to plague Manitoba’s COVID-19 testing efforts, the private lab company tasked with helping to relieve some of the pressure is revealing details about its plans for more testing sites.
This week, the province announced it has contracted Dynacare to open and operate several new testing sites across the province. The initial plans would see testing capacity increased by 1,400 tests a day with the ability to eventually increase to 2,600 more, the province said.
Dynacare’s Winnipeg-based chief scientific officer, Dr. Jenisa Naidoo said Wednesday the company — which has already been processing tests alongside the Cadham Provincial Laboratory — eventually aims to be able to report test results in a 24-hour timeframe.
However, she said there’s a backlog of testing they’ll have to get through first.
“There’s been a higher demand — the volumes of tests have gone up significantly in the last few weeks or the last month,” Naidoo told 680 CJOB.
Currently, Naidoo said the company is getting results out within 24 and 48 hours.
But she hopes that will change as the new sites open, including two in Winnipeg and one in Brandon, which go into operation in the coming weeks.
On Tuesday, the province said Dynacare may also have a mobile site open in Winnipeg as early as Sept. 28.
The mobile site — essentially a clinic on wheels — will be able to quickly head to areas of need or hotspots around the province, Naidoo explained.
Further sites — including both walk-ins and drive-thru locations — in Winnipeg and others in Winkler, Portage la Prairie, and Dauphin are also planned, she added.
Naidoo couldn’t yet say where exactly the new sites will be located, but she stressed Dynacare’s COVID-19 testing will not be done at the company’s current lab facilities in Winnipeg.
She said Dynacare plans to have many of the new testing sites open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“The hours of operation will vary from region to region, but in Winnipeg we’re hoping to actually have longer hours and extended hours at these COVID assessment centres,” she said.
Naidoo said each of Dynacare’s COVID-19 testing sites will be able to give an estimated wait time for those who come in for testing, and the company plans to update their website with expected wait times for each site as well.
Winnipeg testing sites hit capacity
Over the last week, some of Winnipeg’s testing sites have reached capacity by mid-afternoon, forcing staff to turn away those still waiting in line for testing.
That’s led to grumbling on social media about both the long lines at sites and the long wait for results after being told by health officials to socially isolate until getting news of a negative test.
There’s also reports of long wait times for callers to Health Links, as calls come in from those with questions about COVID-19 and other issues, and others anxious to get their test results.
A spokesperson from Shared Health said Wednesday Health Links is seeing higher than normal call volumes. It’s something that’s “being monitored closely with consideration being given to how current wait times may be addressed,” they said in an emailed statement.
As for test result wait times Shared Health said the average timeline from a sample being taken to the result being available is currently two to three days, although some additional time may be added for transportation, depending on where the test is taken.
“Test result turnaround times across the province have remained stable even with the increased volume,” a provincial spokesperson said.
“Positive COVID-19 test results are communicated immediately by public health and the process of rigorous contact tracing begins at that point.”
Negative test results are made available for Manitobans with a Manitoba Health card online, and the spokesperson said only those who are not able to access the results after five business days, or those without Manitoba Health cards should call Health Links for the results.
Meanwhile Shared Health says while no Manitobans are necessarily being prioritized for faster testing, samples from health-care workers are being marked “in order to minimize their turnaround at the lab wherever possible.”
The spokesperson said samples from transport workers, educators, and child care providers are also being identified at testing sites, but only “for the purposes of tracking the presence of COVID-19 in Manitoba.”
Provincial data shows 1,703 tests for COVID-19 were completed Tuesday, bringing the total number of lab tests completed since early February to 170,045.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.
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