Testing clinic now available by referral in Port Alberni as cases climb

Eric Plummer, March 20, 2020

According to Island Health, screenings are not available for many with COVID-19 symptoms, as authorities focus on severe cases and health-care workers. (governortomwolf/Wikimedia Commons photo)

Port Alberni, BC — 

As health authorities struggle to curb the continued rise of coronavirus cases across the province, a new testing centre has opened in Port Alberni.

But due to limited supplies and capacity, screenings will only be provided by referral for those who have the highest risks while infected with COVID-19. The new screening clinic opened on Thursday, March 19.

“It is important that people do not attend a screening clinic. Access is by referral and appointment only,” states a media release from Island Health. “It is also important to understand that the majority of people will not meet the requirement for testing at a screening clinic.”

Those testing requirements include the COVID-19 symptoms, which are a fever, muscle soreness, a new dry cough and shortness of breath. But to get a test one must also have respiratory difficulties that likely require hospitalisation, be a health-care worker showing signs of the coronavirus, a symptomatic long-term care resident or among those affected by a cluster outbreak.

Otherwise, a test is not deemed necessary for those with mild COVID-19 symptoms.

“The Ministry of Health and Island Health strongly urges anyone who has symptoms – including a fever, cough, sneezing, sore throat or difficulty breathing – to self isolate for 14 days. People experiencing these symptoms do not require testing,” said the Island Health release.

The new screening clinic in Port Alberni will compliment a testing lab already operating in Victoria, where results can be determined in 24 hours or longer, depending on the travel required from where the sample was taken. Testing for COVID-19 uses swab samples taken from either the nasal cavity or throat.

Despite continual urgings from health authorities to frequently wash hands, maintain a distance from others while in public and stay home unless necessary, coronavirus cases continue to climb. On Friday B.C. officials announced an additional 77 cases for a total of 348 across the province. Eight more were reported for Vancouver Island, where 30 cases are confirmed.

During her daily press conference, B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonny Henry ordered all restaurants to serve by take-out or delivery only. With B.C. under a provincial state of emergency, she now has the authority to issue such orders in the interest of controlling the spread of an extremely contagious virus.

“I know how challenging it is when we are dealing with a virus where we have no cure, we have no vaccine, we have no way of preventing it,” said Henry. “It has been a tremendous challenge for our health-care centre to watch what’s happening over this last few weeks and months around the world.”

While the death toll among those infected by COVID-19 continues to rise each day, a glimmer of insight into the new illness can be found in Italy, where the coronavirus has caused more fatalities than any other country. In late February researchers began an experiment in Vo Vecchio, a northern town where the first European death was reported. All 3,300 residents of Vo were tested for the virus.

Led by the University of Padua, the study found that three per cent of the town tested positive, but 50 to 75 per cent of those with the virus exhibited no symptoms. All of those infected and in close contact with them were placed under strict quarantine. When another town-wide test was conducted days later, a 0.3 per cent growth in transmission was found, leading some researchers to consider the value of isolating even those who show mild of no symptoms to stop the spread of COVID-19.