A Vancouver father whose toddler contracted COVID-19 at a Burnaby daycare says B.C. needs to deploy rapid testing now and to shift strategies before variants of the virus take over.
Andrew Longhurst is frustrated his son’s case may also be linked to a now-infamous recent trivia night at pub Port Moody.
Andrew Longhurst’s 18-month old son Levi tested positive for the virus on Feb. 10, amid an outbreak at the SFU Childcare Centre.
His wife tested positive about a week later, but because Longhurst remains negative he’s been told the family must isolate until at least March 7, in case he contracts the virus at the end of his wife’s infectious period.
Fortunately, Levi’s symptoms appear mild, Longhurst said, but he’s still concerned about the potential long-term effects of the virus.
“The last thing you want to see is your child test positive. We don’t know enough about this disease, it’s unpredictable, and it’s scary,” Longhurst, a PhD candidate and public health researcher at SFU, said.
“It blows my mind that a bar trivia night was happening amidst a scenario where we have highly infectious variants seeded in the community already.”
Fraser Health said it couldn’t confirm details about any specific businesses, but did confirm an event involving a trivia night within the health region was linked to 25 cases of COVID-19, including an outbreak at a child centre.
It also confirmed the SFU outbreak, involving 26 people, was the first COVID-19 outbreak at a daycare centre within Fraser Health.
As upset as Longhurst is about the link between the two events, he’s more frustrated with the province for what he believes is an unwillingness to update its strategy and head off a brutal, variant-driven third wave.
“This is the moment to deploy rapid testing, to be able to test the entire child-care community and to stop further transmission,” he said.
“Why are we not using these tools when there is a stockpile of somewhere in the range of a million rapid tests sitting in a warehouse?”
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has resisted deploying rapid tests, describing them as time-consuming to use and with spotty accuracy.
B.C.’s long term care industry and seniors’ advocate have both been calling for a rapid test deployment for months.
They argue the tests could be implemented as an additional screening tool, noting a person who returned a negative test would still have to undergo all the other regular screening measures.
Longhurst said many other provinces have found effective ways to use the tests.
With COVID-19 variants still in the early stages, he said B.C. should emulate Nova Soctia, which has implemented pop-up rapid testing of asymptomatic or presymptomatic people before they have the chance to pass the virus on.
“We’re not winning this war right now by just doing symptomatic and not deploying rapid testing in some of these higher risk settings,” he said.
“We’re always going to be behind the eight ball… I am honestly very worried about this spring because I worry that the childcare centres across the province and schools and workplaces are going to go through repeat waves of having to send people home and isolate.”
At Friday’s COVID-19 briefing, deputy provincial health officer Dr. Reka Gustafson indicated B.C. had no plans to move to asymptomatic testing.
The measures that stop the spread of the original COVID-19, such as physical distancing, hand washing and masks, are the same strategies that can prevent transmission of the variants, she said.
“Testing without symptoms is actually not a strategy that has been proven to be particularly helpful,” she said, adding that testing was available to anyone who wanted it.
“Looking at our strategies and our approach to testing, we actually have no indication that we’re missing large numbers of cases or even substantial number of cases.”
But Longhurst said sticking with what B.C. is already doing isn’t working.
And he said while his family is fortunate enough to have the income and support network to be quarantined at home for a month, thousands of other British Columbians don’t have that.
“At what point do we say, OK, people aren’t going to be able to cope with this anymore,” he said.
“We have to think what are other places doing that is working well, and why aren’t we taking those lessons seriously?”
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