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Rapid COVID-19 testing site downtown over the weekend detects positive case

Dr. Lisa Barrett said rapid tests are a great way to potentially detect cases in those who otherwise might not know they have the virus
COVID-19 swab in lab Photo: Getty Images

It's likely not Dr. Lisa Barrett's normal Saturday night hangout.

The Dalhousie University infectious disease specialist was among a team of health professionals who set up a rapid testing site for COVID-19 at The Dome over the weekend.

Although the nightclub is currently not open as the pandemic continues, the team was able to draw in and swab around 150 bar staff and patrons who were in the downtown core.

"We were looking for some places to get out and about into the community and try to see how we could use some of these rapid COVID tests to reach people in a quick and easy-for-them-to-access way," she told NEWS 95.7's The Sheldon MacLeod Show.

After being swabbed, it's only about a 10-minute wait until the results are known.

Of the around 150 tests conducted, one came back positive. That may not sound like a big number, but Barrett said it's proof Haligonians are circulating around the city not knowing they have the virus.

She explained the rapid tests aren't as sensitive as the tests being done in Nova Scotia Health Authority's official labs. As a result, there's a higher likelihood it won't detect the virus in those who have only recently been infected. There's also a higher risk of false-positive results.

"But that's okay," she said. "We would expect that people who get missed might get picked up in some other way if they develop symptoms."

"And if there's a false-positive, we can do a confirmatory test. So anything that turns up as a positive on this rapid test, we ask people to get a second swab done and we send it off to the lab for confirmation."

The positive detected through rapid testing Saturday night has since been officially confirmed by the lab. It was included among 11 new COVID-19 cases announced on Monday.

Barrett said rapid tests aren't perfect, but they're a great way to screen people and potentially detect cases in those who otherwise might not know they have the virus.

She'd like to see more of them being done, especially now that we're in the second wave.

"These tests are easy to do, they provide rapid results and they're pretty good at what they do," she said. "Yes, we may miss some true positive people, but we'd miss all of them if we weren't testing."

Dr. Robert Strang has said young adults between the ages of 18 and 35 are currently driving the spike in new cases.

As of Monday, gathering limits in the Halifax-area have been tightened and all bar staff working on the peninsula will be tested for COVID-19 over the next week.

Meghan Groff

About the Author: Meghan Groff

Born in Michigan, raised in Ontario, schooled in Indiana and lives in Nova Scotia; Meghan is the editor for CityNews Halifax.
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