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UPDATED: Tests for COVID-19 ramp up in Thunder Bay

Some random surveillance testing for COVID-19 will be done this week
COVID-19 swabs
Nasopharyngeal swabs used to take samples for testing for COVID-19 (Tbnewswatch file)

THUNDER BAY — Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre has received the hardware it needs to perform on-site analysis of COVID-19 virus swabs.

The equipment from BioFire Diagnostics arrived at the hospital Monday from Montreal.

However, reagents – chemicals needed in a laboratory to confirm the presence of the virus in a swab – are still on order from a supplier in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The reagents are currently in high demand around the globe.

Dr. Stewart Kennedy, head of the TBRHSC's COVID-19 response team, says there's no firm date for when the shipment will arrive.

However, he said the target for implementing the local testing for COVID-19 remains toward the end of next week.

Local testing will eliminate the need to send swabs to Toronto, resulting in a turnaround time of only two to four hours as opposed to several days.

Local test results will be available to patients online, as they are now for samples that are analyzed in Toronto.

Kennedy said the hospital is also moving ahead with additional measures to increase the number of individuals being tested.

"We are issuing new medical directives today and tomorrow that will increase the swabbing and the testing that we're doing here in Thunder Bay," he said.

This will include random surveillance testing of a small percentage of the local population, "to see what type of community spread is there," Kennedy said.

Tests will be done this week.

Tests will also be given to health care workers with suspected coronavirus symptoms, including staff in long-term care homes, retirement facilities and homeless shelters.

"So we are trying to move things forward despite the inability for in-house testing. That's not holding us back right now...and the turnaround time has improved," Kennedy said.

He said Public Health Ontario has cleared up a backlog of test results, so its turnaround time is currently two to three days, compared with waits as long as nine days that were prevalent last month.

Gary Rinne

About the Author: Gary Rinne

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Gary started part-time at Tbnewswatch in 2016 after retiring from the CBC
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