Speedy test results critical for fall season, a case in point

Connecting the Dots

By Anne Davison

It takes two to three days, usually, to get the results after a COVID-19 test, here in Manitoba.

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According to official information online, that is standard across the Prairies, although there have been some individual glitches.   

Two days sounds good for a laboratory result, however for the sake of keeping schools from being COVID-19 transmission sites, contact tracing needs to be sharpened up - expedited by immediate test results to stop the spread in schools and in other institutions and work places too.

Along with faster results from the current nasal swab, there’s a clamour to have saliva-based tests approved for Canada. Better for kids who won’t appreciate a nasal swab.

According to a CBC news story, researchers at the University of Saskatchewan are working to provide a saliva-based COVID-19 home testing kit which would provide results in a few minutes. But don’t hold your breath, they don’t expect it to be available until next spring.

Meanwhile, in the USA, as many as five different saliva tests are in use. We want just one good test with a high rate of accuracy.

A long wait-time for test results can act as a deterrent to someone thinking they probably just have a summer sniffle. Should they line-up for the test? (Yes, or self-isolate until symptom free for 24 hours.)

Manitoba health asks people to quarantine while awaiting COVID-19 test results. That’s good because, if you test positive for COVID-19, even if you don’t feel sick, you could infect others. Stay home.

That wait can be frustrating.

One family I know had a vacation planned, complete with a precious week booked off from work. A scratchy sore throat and slightly stuffy nose meant that while they figured it was just a summer cold, with members outside their immediate family involved in the vacation, only test results could give camping together the green light.

At the test site the person was told that, not being in essential services, it could take up to seven days to get the results. A week! (There’d been a glitch in the procedure just then.)

Meanwhile, vacation days slipped by. Fortunately, the test came back within two days not seven, and it was negative, so the family enjoyed some vacation activities they had planned.

Manitoba’s test numbers have increased dramatically. However, a provincial spokesperson stated that test result turnaround times have remained stable. Positive COVID-19 test results are communicated immediately by public health and the process of rigorous contact tracing begins at that point.

The average timeline from a sample being taken to the result being available is currently 2-3 days. This includes a 24 to 48-hour turnaround once the sample reaches the laboratory. Some additional time may be added to the front end of this timeline to account for the transportation of samples from the testing site to the lab depending on the location of the test and current testing volumes.

Fast test results will be important for every school situation. The federal government, Tuesday, announced $2 billion toward a safe school start. Will some of that money go toward speedier results for school related testing?

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