At least 200 COVID-19 tests have been conducted each day since the coronavirus outbreak was declared at N.J. Macpherson school on May 1.

That outbreak grew to include 20 people who tested positive for COVID-19, with seven probable cases and about 1,000 people identified as close contacts, said chief public health officer Dr. Kami Kandola on May 4.

The COVID-19 testing centre on Archibald Street in Yellowknife has been collecting about 200 tests per day and an unspecified number have been collected from the pop-up testing site that was set up by the COVID-19 Rapid Response team at N.J. Macpherson on May 4, said NWT Health and Social Services Authority spokesperson David Maguire.

The school testing site, reserved for teachers and students can accommodate as many as 250 tests per day.

The scaled-up testing capability of the Archibald Street site — near the airport — will enable as many as 250 swabs to be collected per day, though Maguire said that capacity requires significant effort that can be maintained for a limited time for priority testing of certain groups, such as the N.J. cluster.

“We have some capacity beyond this for priority testing, for example on Monday (May 3) we processed 320 samples,” Maguire said.

The surge in testing demand has filled up all appointments for the rest of the week.

The next slots available are on Monday, May 10, although access could be expanded over the weekend if enough staff are available and bookings would be put online in that case, Maguire added.

“All hands (are) on deck and (we) have been moving staff around internally to meet demand. We have also focused on some process changes, for example the in-car or outdoor screening at the testing site to speed up processes at the site itself and the addition of online spaces to allow people to show up at a predictable time at the testing site,” he said.

Extra staff have also been added to help with faster callback for results.

Maguire couldn’t specify how many extra staff have been added to the testing efforts.

People should book their testing appointments online and not walk in to the test sites.

At the Archibald location, seven ID NOW rapid testing devices, which can receive results in 15 minutes are being used for patients showing symptoms of COVID-19 or for other high risk cases.

ID NOW results are sent to Stanton Territorial Hospital in Yellowknife for confirmatory polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing. The exception to that is testing performed for essential worker clearances and for asymptomatic individuals on the eighth day of their isolation.

The average turn-around time for test results is 24-48 hours.

Who should get tested

People who were present at a location and time listed as close contacts on Public Exposure Lists.

Individuals isolating in the household of someone who was present during the close contacts notice and who have become symptomatic.

People who were at a location or time listed as a potential contact on the Public Exposure Risk and who have become symptomatic.

Individuals directed by Public Health to get tested and people who have COVID-19 symptoms.

Blair McBride

Blair McBride covers the Legislative Assembly, business and education. Before coming to Yellowknife he worked as a journalist in British Columbia, Thailand and Ontario. He studied journalism at Western...

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