B.C.'s top doctor says not everyone will be given a PCR test for coronavirus as testing stations continue to see long lineups in the wake of surging cases of the virus.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry told reporters in a press briefing on Friday (Dec. 24) morning that procedures at testing stations have changed to reflect the evolving COVID-19 situation in the province.
"There is triage happening at the testing stations, particularly in [the] Vancouver [Coastal] and the Fraser health regions, where we've had long lineups and here on the island," she said.
Public health is using rapid antigen tests to supplement PCR testing based on risk, explained Henry. People who are younger and don't have underlying risk factors, particularly if they are fully vaccinated, will most likely receive a rapid test.
"And for people who may have underlying risk factors for more severe illness—and that usually is people who are older or younger, especially younger children—then you will be prioritized for getting the PCR tests," she noted.
The health officer underscored that testing stations are being overwhelmed with people and not everyone should be getting tested for the virus. In particular, asymptomatic individuals should not visit a testing facility.
"We need to make sure that we're testing those people where this makes a difference in the care that they get. Whether they need to be into to be monitored more carefully [and] whether they need more support."
The comments reflect guidance from earlier this week when Henry emphasized that health officials don't recommend everyone gets tested for the virus — even if they have mild symptoms.
But if you are experiencing symptoms, stay home and isolate yourself. Regardless of how mild your symptoms may be, Henry added.
"If you do have symptoms and they worsen or you're having difficulty breathing, chest pain, can't drink anything...and your self-care is not helping you manage your illness...then do not be afraid to call 911," she said.
"While I cautioned about the need to get tested, if you are seriously unwell please do not hesitate to seek care immediately."
British Columbians hoping to celebrate over the holidays will not be able to attend indoor organized gatherings of any size this year.
The new rule is one of several new public health orders included in sweeping new changes to B.C.'s Public Health Act announced on Tuesday in the wake of surging cases of coronavirus in the province.
From couples hoping to tie the knot with a large reception to companies hosting large celebratory events, the order states that no indoor organized gatherings will be permitted. Additionally, bars, nightclubs, fitness centres, and dance studios will be closed.