Emergency doctor says B.C. still not testing enough for COVID-19

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A doctor working in the emergency department at Royal Columbian Hospital says British Columbia is still not doing enough testing for COVID-19 and that means the number of confirmed cases does not paint an accurate picture of the spread of virus within the province.

In a video posted to YouTube, Dr. Sean Wormsbecker said when people arrive at the hospital with COVID-19 symptoms but are breathing normally and considered clinically stable, he is sending them home and asking that they self-isolate for 14 days.

“That scares me because 10 years of clinical practice have taught me that, unfortunately, patients aren’t consistent in following direction,” he said in the video. “It means that we’re going to be really low-balling the actual numbers. And I saw several cases today that I have no doubt are positive cases.”

In recent days, about 3,000 tests have been conducted per day in the province, and the provincial health officer said Saturday there are no plans to begin testing everyone in the province.

Instead, Dr. Bonnie Henry says efforts are being focused on tracing chains of transmission associated with known outbreaks and encouraging everyone in the province to maintain physical distancing to slow or prevent transmission of the virus.

Dr. Wormsbecker says he understands limited testing resources need to be saved for people who are very ill, health-care workers, and to track clusters of infection.

“It still means that we are, unfortunately, not performing to the kind of standards that were met in other countries that have been able to effectively flatten their curve,” he said in the video.

“If anything, I think we have to unfortunately look more to the countries that haven’t done as well because we simply aren’t at that standard of quarantine. We’re not at that standard of social isolation and we are definitely not at that standard of testing.”