Lambton MOH questions whether mass testing for COVID-19 is valuable

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    Lambton’s medical officer of health is questioning the value of mass testing for COVID-19.

    Last month, the provincial government ordered public health units to test all residents and staff in long term care homes. The novel coronavirus has taken its toll in long term care homes in the province with over 1,400 residents dying – about 80 per cent of the people in the province who have died.

    There are outbreaks in over 190 long term care homes now, including three in Lambton County.

    Dr. Sudit Ranade told members of county council Wednesday morning that all long term care home residents and staff in the area have been tested for COVID-19. Out of over 1,360 residents tested, only five people were found to have COVID-19. Ranade says 1,426 staff were tested an only one health care worker was found to have the virus.

    Ranade says that while the current COVID-19 is helpful when someone has symptoms, it may not be the best tool to test for the presence of the virus in large settings.

    “The value of this test as a screening tool and (for) people who don’t have symptoms is starting to become suspect, because you would hope that you would get a lot of cases for your effort of of testing all of these folks, and we’re really not finding that outcome right now,” he says.

    “I think it’s just important to take a bit of stock of volume of testing that is required just to find one case of disease and then to think very carefully about whether or not such screening is warranted because it really does only provide you with a snapshot in time, and it’s not really an ongoing mechanism of surveillance,” says Ranade.

    The medical officer of health adds that when someone in long term care has symptoms of COVID-19, they are able to test them and receive the results back quickly so they can be isolated.

    Ranade says public health will next begin to test at child care centers on the orders of the provincial government.