Not everybody needs testing for COVID-19

If you think you need to get tested for COVID-19, chances are you don't.

Most people do not require the test for the virus because even a positive result would not change your care requirements. 

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But these are uncertain times. People are worried if they develop a sniffle they might have been infected and if they do develop symptoms, what should they do? 

A trip to the hospital is not the answer, except in a real emergency. 

"Testing is available for everyone who needs it, but not everyone needs it," said Northern Health spokeperson Eryn Collins. "If a person gets to the point where they are being referred for testing we have testing locations established across the North. People who are referred for testing will be contacted by a patient care coordinator with details of their testing appointment and where they need to go."

Testing in the Northern Health region has been ongoing since the start of the outbreak and during the week from March 14-21, 408 test swabs were sent to provincial labs were samples from northern BC residents across the Northern Health region. 

So far, five northern B.C. residents have tested positive. The fifth was confirmed Monday morning by BC Public Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

According to provincial guidelines, the COVID-19 test is not needed for people who do not show any symptoms, or people who have mild respiratory symptoms that can be managed at home. That includes returning travelers who have an onset of illness within 14 days of returning to Canada.  

Anyone who has symptoms, including fever, cough, sneezing, sore throat, should self-isolate for 10 days.

Call 9-1-1 or go to the hospital immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms: severe difficulty breathing, severe chest pain, having a very hard time waking up, feeling confused and losing consciousness.

Call your doctor or the 8-1-1 HealthLink BC line if you experience mild-to-moderate shortness of breath, an inability to lie down because of difficulty breathing, or if you have a chronic health condition that is becoming problematic because of difficulty breathing.

The above procedures are highlighted on the BC Centre for Disease Control website and its online assessment tool at https://bc.thrive.health/covid19 which directs people what to do depending on what their symptoms are. 

People who should be tested for COVID-19 are those with respiratory symptoms who are either in the hospital already or likely to be hospitalized. Tests will also be done on residents of long-term care facilities, people who are part of an investigation of a cluster or an outbreak, and health care workers.

Collins encourages people to go through the self-assessment tool, which can be completed by the individual or on behalf of someone else if they are not able to go through the online procedure.

At the outset of the COVID-19 crisis, Collins said people were arriving at emergency rooms thinking they could get tested there but she said most people are now aware that is not what they should do.

"With the screening tool that's available on the BCCDC website, that has helped drive those questions and concerns to a good source of truth," Collins said.

Northern Health operates a COVID-19 online clinic and information phone line - 1-844-645-7811 - which will connect people who think they might have the virus or have been exposed to COVID-19 with nurses, nurse practitioners and physicians. 

An information line set up by the province which offers non-medical advice for travelers or for people with other non-medical COVID-19 concerns is available at 1-888-COVID19 (1-888-268-4319). 

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