Alberta’s top doctor says province is looking into other testing methods
CALGARY -- The nasopharyngeal swab has been the standard way to test adults and children for COVID-19, but now the province is looking at other ways to screen patients.
In a press conference Friday afternoon, Dr. Deena Hinshaw says they are looking into a mouth rinse or self-saliva sample options but have to ensure all of the hardware and infrastructure is in place to accommodate a new sample methodology.
"We need to make sure that methodology will work with the way our lab runs tests. We need to make sure our lab has adequate collection containers and all of those different pieces."
This news comes a day after B.C. announced it’s going to be offering a mouth-rinse-gargle COVID-testing option for school-aged children. The method is less invasive.
"It might alleviate some of the bottle necks at the collection centres and reduce the number of health care workers and PPE," said Dr. David Goldfard, a medical microbiologist with B.C.’s Children’s Hospital.
Addressing the demand for testing has been a challenge for many jurisdictions. On Thursday afternoon, Dr. Hinshaw announced the province was shifting to targeted COVID-19 testing to decrease wait times to book a testing appointment and to speed up access to results.
Anyone with symptoms can continue to get tested but asymptomatic people won't be able to anymore unless they are frontline health-care workers, school staff, travelling or experiencing homelessness.
"I feel it’s a little bit unfair," said a masked citizen who was rushing into Calgary’s testing site at the old Greyhound station.
"It’s just peace of mind to do the testing and know that you’re negative."
Another masked person getting tested works in the health-care sector and agrees testing should be prioritized for those on the front lines.
"I think, eventually, we have to move that way. At some point we have to live with COVID-19 and I don’t think the government can maintain all the testing."
The private sector in Alberta has been furiously working to not only get a rapid testing method to market but one that is less invasive too.
Donna Mandau, president and CEO of Graphene Leaders Canada Inc. in Edmonton is developing a rapid testing method that uses graphene, produced by graphite, to detect proteins in the coronavirus. Mandau says all it requires is a spit sample and the results are available within seconds.
"We call it at-the-door technology. So if you’re lining up for the NHL game or you’re going to a major concert, within 30 seconds or less you will be identified as being cleared to be on the premises or asked to go to the hospital."
Another company, the Citizen Care Pod, located in Calgary, is currently offering rapid test results within 12 to 15 minutes and has the capacity to accommodate up to 6,000 people per hour.
Hinshaw has advised Albertans looking to purchase private-pay tests to do research on the credentials of the lab that’s offering it, what the accuracy is and make sure it's been validated by Health Canada.
As for introducing a mouth rinse or self-saliva sample testing option, she says there is no timeline yet as to when they could be rolled out here.