New Interior Health COVID-19 testing guidelines
In a media availability on Dec. 24, provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, provided new verbal instructions on who should get a COVID-19 test, introducing new guidelines that asked people to restrict testing use. However, the verbal instructions weren’t followed up with the more detailed written statements that sometimes follow significant B.C. COVID-19 public policy shifts.
On Dec. 28, Interior Health clarified its guidelines on who should get a COVID-19 test. This comes in the face of a big increase in testing demand that has overwhelmed testing availability in places in B.C., including Revelstoke, as the Omicron variant spreads rapidly through B.C.
On Dec. 28, Interior Health issued these guidelines:
A COVID-19 test is not recommended if:
· You have no symptoms, even if you are a close contact of someone who has tested positive.
· You are fully vaccinated (two doses), experiencing mild symptoms and can manage your illness at home. Self-isolate for seven days. Notify your close contacts so they can self-monitor for symptoms.
A COVID-19 test is recommended if:
· You are experiencing one or more of the following symptoms: fever or chills; cough; loss of sense of smell or taste; or difficulty breathing.
· You have experienced one or more of the following symptoms for longer than 24 hours with no improvement: sore throat; loss of appetite; headache or body aches; extreme fatigue; nausea or vomiting; diarrhea.
Interior Health said people who are unsure about their symptoms should contact their care provided or call 8-1-1.
If you are still not sure, the B.C. government is steering people to its B.C. COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool to determine if you need to be tested.
You can read the Interior Health media release for more details.
Interior Health says rapid tests available to some as of Dec. 27
In its Dec. 28 statement, Interior Health said rapid tests are available at its testing centres for people who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
“Where available, rapid tests may be provided to individuals experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and according to risk factors,” Interior Health said of the rapid tests. “No appointment is required to pick up a rapid test. Access may be temporarily limited depending on the supply available.”
If you test positive, you must follow self isolation guidelines.
Interior Health said the tests included instructions on how to self-report a positive test. How rapid test data is recorded has been a recent topic of discussion in B.C.
See the Dec. 28 IH media release here. Telephone inquiry and web booking information is located on the main Interior Health COVID-19 webpage. This Interior Health announcement covers all of the region.
Testing demand exceeds supply in Revelstoke
Revelstoke’s COVID-19 testing centre has been completely booked for the past 10 days. New appointments are made available online at 9 p.m. each evening, but like tickets to a hot music concert, they have been quickly reserved within about 10 minutes of posting, based on the three recent days we’ve monitored availability just after 9 p.m. You can find the Interior Health COVID-19 testing online reservations page here.
Interior Health sometimes makes new appointments available during the day, but the timing of the release of new daytime appointments is less clear. Revelstoke residents have been travelling to nearby communities for tests since before Christmas.
On Dec. 27, revelstokemountaineer.com followed up with Interior Health to find out about their commitment to increase testing here. We asked about how many tests had been performed, how many new tests had been added since Interior Health committed to adding testing availability in Revelstoke, and how many had been available to the general public.
Interior Health said it would need until Wednesday, Dec. 29 to compile the statistics, but said it had, “added additional capacity for COVID-19 testing in Revelstoke over the holidays and into the coming days.”
On the evening of Dec. 28, Interior Health released 46 new appointments for Dec. 31, double the standard 23. Half were still available an hour later, an improvement.
Revelstoke has had ample testing availability but it was suddenly exceeded on about Dec. 18, 2021.
IH also said it would send a media release announcement on new COVID-19 vaccine booster clinics, anticipating an announcement soon. Currently, the only booster clinic listed in Revelstoke is on Dec. 31.
B.C. government Christmas holiday data gap means no local numbers
A lot of the B.C. government’s COVID-19 data reporting is limited during the Christmas holiday. Although there has been some data reported, such as new case counts, much of the regularly updated data is on hiatus, despite B.C. and the world experiencing one of the most fluid weeks of the pandemic so far.
Among the data that is not available is the Local Health Area-level data, which was last released on Dec. 24 for a period covering up to Dec. 22. It showed the Revelstoke LHA had the highest case rate in B.C.
The next update that will likely contain Local Health Area data is scheduled for Dec. 30.
The B.C. government has also announced a live COVID-19 update for 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 29, which will be live broadcast on social media and TV.
High B.C. numbers, but limited testing
The B.C. government provided very limited provincial data on Dec. 28, reporting new case numbers but not much of the usual data. In B.C., 1,785 new cases were recorded, with 269 in Interior Health.
Testing has been restricted and availability has been limited in some places in B.C., so the new case numbers come with an asterisk and are not direct comparisons to past daily numbers: the new numbers would be higher if testing was available as it was before. The B.C. government has also said it has reached its testing capacity at just over 20,000 per day.