It’s been more than a week since students went back to school and already some working parents are complaining that Covid-19 testing procedures are taking too long and causing a major inconvenience to home life.
At least one source who asked to remain anonymous because their spouse works for a government-funded organization reached out to NNSL Media to complain about their child – an elementary school student with symptoms – being told to stay home.
The person is the third in recent days who has contacted NNSL Media with similar complaints.
“I don’t think the government knows what families have to go through,” stated the parent.
The parent said on Friday that their nine-year-old child was taken out of school after showing signs of the sniffles and a nagging cough. Officials determined these were Covid-19 symptoms, according to the parent. The child has to self-isolate at home with the parent until the results from a Covid-19 swab test come back.
The source said they rented a bed and breakfast from a friend in order to allow for test results to come back – which could be up to 10 days or more – and continue working apart from the family.
“What gets me is why it takes 10 days to get the results back,” the person said, asserting that they don’t feel they are being treated the same as a government worker like a nurse or a jail guard.
The department says that this assertion is incorrect, however and that people who are able to get rapid testing are those who have symptoms who “work in or is a patient/resident/client in a residential or healthcare facility (hospital, correctional facility, long-term care, group home).
“Worldwide these have been areas that are at some of the highest risk of outbreak,” stated health department spokesperson Mike Westwick.
Rapid tests are also given to “any worker whose absence would cause an inability for us to deliver essential services within the HSS system” and anyone “who works with vulnerable populations (for example chemotherapy or long term care).”
“In practice, the vast majority of government employees, even those within the health sector, would have their testing go through the same process as the public and would experience the same wait times,” stated Westwick.
“It is about getting rapid tests to those who need it most, ensuring there is appropriate staffing in essential positions to keep residents safe, and preserving our supplies of rapid tests to rise to the challenges we could face in Fall.
The person who contacted NNSL Media stated that his wait time doesn’t make a lot of sense, especially if the family has not travelled out of territory. In the case of the child, similar symptoms show up every year and it could happen again as flu season approaches.
Even if the test results show negative results, the person said the child cannot return to school until the symptoms have subsided.
Paul Falvo, a Yellowknife-based attorney, posted a message on Facebook on Sunday, asking incredulously why test times were taking longer in the NWT than other jurisdictions.
“So if USA citizens get Covid results in 3-5 days…why is taking 8+ days in NWT? Asking for a friend. For real,” Falvo wrote.
The Facebook thread received 60 comments as of Tuesday afternoon, describing some scenarios where people were waiting more than a week.
One woman said she had been waiting for nine days.
“Ugh! That’s awful! Seann waited 10 for his. Ten days locked in a hotel for a runny nose and a cough,” posted another individual in response.
Others in the thread stated that their test results hadn’t taken as long; some said they knew the outcome in one to two days in places like Montreal or Toronto.
“I have been tested three times (in Yellowknife) in the past six months and each time I had the results within three days,” stated one, whose job description is listed as a “senior nursing consultant, home care” at Stanton.
Still others were sympathetic with the wait times, noting that they are about in line with other places in Canada.
“We have a five to 10 day wait here in Smithers, B.C., because they ship the samples away,” stated one person. “Typically people hear back in three or so days but they tell you five to accommodate any bumps in the road.”
Test turnarounds averaging less than a week: GNWT
Mike Westwick, spokesperson for the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer, stated in an email that test results come back to families in a week in most cases, however there are circumstances where this may not be the case.
“The territorial average remains less than a week,” he stated. “There are going to be outliers based on transport challenges or volume at Alberta Precision Laboratories. This is obviously unfortunate – and we do empathize with those who are waiting a bit longer than we’d like to see for results.”
Westwick added that the GNWT is looking to introduce rapid testing in the territory and expects to make an announcement when details are finalized.
The GNWT is also encouraging parents to use the Daily Symptom Screening Tool to monitor children before sending them to school.
Jaimee Kepa, media spokesperson with the GNWT Department of Education, Culture and Employment, stated in an email on Sept. 15 that there are strict guidelines as to when children must stay home.
“If a child shows one major symptom or two minor symptoms, parents or guardians must keep that child at home,” Kepa stated. “They cannot come to school. Parents will then follow the advice of their health care practitioner as to next steps based on criteria outlined by the OCPHO.
“When students are sent home they are instructed to contact their local health care provider in order to obtain a test,” Kepa stated. “They are to follow the instructions of their health care provider and depending on the test results, the OCPHO would be contacted. In other words, they would only be engaged if there were clinical considerations like a case investigation. Each education body would track attendance and would provide that information to assist in the contact tracing process.”