Should Canadians be able to report rapid test results as provinces restrict PCR testing?
As more provinces roll back PCR testing for COVID-19 and the Omicron variant continues to rise, many people in Canada rely on the results of quick antigen tests to take away when they get their hands on them.
However, in much of the country, rapid tests are not counted and are not included in the official provincial case census. Some medical experts warn that it is important to document these results in order to keep track of the progress of the pandemic.
“We need it for a number of things,” said Sally Otto, an evolutionary biologist at UBC and a member of BC’s COVID-19 modeling team.
“To predict when we will be at the height of this Omicron wave, we need to know how many people are infected with it is it really difficult to say, are we still at the beginning of this wave or are we at the end of this wave?”
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Follow-up of positive rapid test results is extremely limited as most jurisdictions do not have any form of reporting system and in several parts of Canada it is becoming increasingly difficult for people to access other forms of testing.
For example, on Thursday, Ontario changed its testing guidelines to say that people who get positive results on rapid antigen tests will no longer need PCR testing for confirmation. And starting Friday, the province will also limit PCR testing to high-risk individuals who are symptomatic, vulnerable populations and workers in high-risk environments.
There is a patchwork of approaches to documenting rapid test results in jurisdictions across Canada in order to document rapid test results, such as:
A piecemeal will not be so good.– Sally Otto, member of BC’s COVID-19 modeling team
âA piecemeal effort won’t be that good to get a good sense of how many people are actually infected right now, what predicted stress the hospital stay will result in, and when we will get through it. “Said Otto.
The precedent for reporting rapid tests already exists: The UK encourages residents of the past nine months to report their results – positive, negative or invalid.
âThe best data we had on the COVID pandemic came from the UK and that was because of their strong data analytics framework. They have data on cases related to hospitalizations and vaccinations, and that’s world class, “said Otto.
Jarvis Schmid from Calgary tested positive for COVID-19 in a rapid test on Boxing Day.
After processing the message, the next thing Schmid asked himself was what to do with his result.
âI remember someone saying something about how good it is to have these records on hand. What if you have long-term symptoms or it helps with the diagnosis? âSaid the 38-year-old, who has isolated himself from his family.
Since Alberta does not have a system for tracking rapid test results, Schmid has instead uploaded a photo of his rapid test, along with the date he took the test, to his electronic medical record.
âI understand that they probably couldn’t set something up right away. I hope that in the end they set up something that you can easily log. But right now it’s a bit of a scramble mode, âhe said.
However, not everyone agrees that a portal similar to Schmid would be helpful.
Dr. Stephanie Smith, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Alberta, said the nature of the follow-up requires people to be proactive in entering their results.
âI think the time, effort, and money that is required may not result in much of a benefit in providing more information than what we have from the subset of people who are still receiving PCR testing “Said Smith.
All along the line
Alberta’s GP, Dr. David Keegan said that something is better than nothing when it comes to tracking rapid test results.
His main concern is the bureaucratic consequences for patients who only have a positive rapid test and no PCR confirmation.
âWill the disability insurance companies accept this when people later look for a long-term disability to get benefits and access to services? Are these self-reported results accepted? We don’t know, âsaid Keegan.
“Let’s hope they are. It would be just ideal if governments found a way to objectively collect such data and quick test results.”
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