A woman wears a protective face mask as she waits to enter a bank in downtown Vancouver, Tuesday, June 2, 2020. Various businesses and restaurants are opening in the province as a part of the phase 2 reopening plan during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

As two B.C. offices see outbreaks, Dr. Henry warns tests don’t replace other measures

Physical distancing, PPE and sanitizing remain key to reduce COVID-19 spread

As businesses open up across the province, B.C.’s top doctor reminded them that “testing is not enough” to keep COVID-19 transmission down in workplaces.

Dr. Bonnie Henry’s warning came as two outbreaks were identified in Fraser Health, both in offices: New World Technology in Abbotsford and Maersk Distribution Canada Inc in Delta. As of Tuesday, there were 207 active cases of COVID-19 in B.C.

“Testing can help identify people who have COVID-19,” Henry said.

Health officials have said asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic people can still spread the virus, even as testing remains “unreliable” for people with mild or non existent symptoms.

It’s been about three weeks since B.C. entered Phase Two of its reopening plan, with many businesses – including retail shops that closed voluntarily, and offices that sent employees to work from home – opening their doors .

“We’ve seen many examples of businesses owners getting creative, learning to operate safely and responsibly, and all of us are getting that comfort level with how we can do this in ways that minimize our risks,” Henry said.

Measures that have been suggested to some barriers, and required of others, include physical barriers, one-way paths, personal protective equipment and extra cleaning.

Henry said some businesses have inquired about testing and screening practices to keep COVID-19 out of their workplaces.

“We meed to remember the many steps that are required to keep everybody safe,” she said. “Relying on one layer [of protection] – like testing – is not enough.”

A person can show up negative one day, Henry said, but come up positive the next as the disease progresses. Testing can take up to 24 hours to see results, she noted.

But another type of testing is taking a longer than hoped for amount of time to become reality.

Serology testing, which tests for antibodies to see if someone has had the virus in the past, has not begun widespread use in B.C. Knowing who has antibodies would be the first step in determining who has immunity against COVID-19.

“I know we’ve all been a little frustrated by how long it’s taking us to get a good reliable tests… to understand who has antibodies in our community,” Henry said. The delay is caused by false positives and false negatives, which both the BC Centre for Disease Control, and labs around the country, are working on.

READ MORE: B.C. records four new COVID-19 cases, Abbotsford hospital outbreak cleared

READ MORE: B.C. schools see 30% of expected enrolment as in-class teaching restarts amid pandemic


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katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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