COVID-19 testing numbers in N.S. drop, much to the dismay of public health officials
HALIFAX -- There was rapid testing -- with no waiting -- at the Halifax convention centre this afternoon.
"There's literally no lineup," said Megan Macpherson. "I just walked in, walked out, it was literally four minutes, it was awesome."
It's a far cry from the long lines a little over two weeks ago.
"I do know that there have been days when it has been wound around the building and up the block, but this week has been relatively quiet," said volunteer Sarah Blenkhorn.
At its peak, Nova Scotia's lab processed over 19,000 tests in one day. Tuesday, that number was down to around 7,300.
That drop is not what public health officials want and they are encouraging Nova Scotians to make testing part of their regular routine.
"We hope and want that people are going to be able to get tested weekly or so, and that's not going to stop," said Dr. Lisa Barrett, an infectious disease specialist.
It's especially important if you live in the Halifax area, says Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health.
"If you are out and about in the community at all, assume you may have been exposed to the virus and get a test," Strang said.
Testing is popping up in more places, like at a shelter for women and children.
"Yesterday, we had public health come and do testing right in the shelter, so we were really excited about that," said Crystal John at Adsum House For Women and Children.
But there are those who want to see more.
"Nova Scotia has somewhere in the range of 700,000 rapid test kits just sitting in storage, let's use them at the airport, it's wise to test on arrival," said Tim Houston
Nova Scotia's opposition leader.
Nova Scotia is doing the most tests in the Maritimes amid calls in some provinces, like New Brunswick, for more testing.
Some say volume isn't the only indicator of success.
"The number that is really important is the positivity rate," says Elizabeth Mancke, the Canada research chair in Atlantic Canadian Studies at the University of New Brunswick. "The Maritime provinces have positivity rates under one per cent, which is considered good. That's compared to Alberta, where it's ten."
Nova Scotia officials say that continued testing is key to stopping any future upward trend.
"If you lose the ability to do contact tracing, you need to do very, very aggressive testing, like Nova Scotia did," Mancke says.
Barrett says the province of Nova Scotia is working on innovative ways to get rapid testing to those who need it, such as people who don't have access to a rapid testing pop-up site or a COVID assessment centre.