Langford expanding COVID-19 home testing pilot project

Langford's new COVID-19 response team website is shown: March 20, 2020 (City of Langford)

Langford Mayor Stew Young says staff have answered roughly 900 calls to the city's COVID-19 hotline since it launched last week.

Those calls resulted in staff advising two people to go to the emergency room because of the severity of the symptoms they described, Young said.

City staff have also dispatched doctors to the residences of 16 people for in-home testing as part of the city's pilot project.

Home testing started on Thursday, but Young said the service has already been expanded to the entire West Shore.

"People want this service," the Langford mayor said. "They appreciate it. It's just so helpful to them that it alleviates some of their fears."

Young said his goal is for the website and hotline his city set up for residents with concerns about the coronavirus pandemic to be able to serve all of the South Island. The limitation on doing that will be the availability of COVID-19 test kits, he said.

Right now, Young said, the province has allocated a small number of test kits to Langford's pilot project.

The mayor said he's heard from other communities that would like to replicate Langford's strategy, and he said he's hopeful that health officials will make more test kits available for in-home testing.

"What's going to win the war is test kits and home testing at the front line and keeping our hospitals for the severe cases," Young said. "That is the way to do this."

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Saturday that health officials have no intention of testing everyone in the province for COVID-19 right now. Health officials are focused, instead, on tracing chains of transmission associated with known outbreaks, as well as encouraging everyone in society to maintain physical distance from others to prevent transmission.

The Langford pilot project occupies a sort of middle ground. Not everyone who calls the hotline is offered testing. The decision on who to test rests with the doctors who are working with the city to answer calls. Those who are tested are people who have at least some symptoms, Young said.

As of Saturday, there were 884 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in British Columbia, though Henry said B.C.'s modelling of the outbreak suggests somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 total cases across the province.

Residents of West Shore municipalities can learn more about the pilot project and do a COVID-19 self-assessment at covidlangford.com

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