COVID-19: Health unit's targeted business-sector testing underway

COVID-19 (File photo)

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There was one new case of COVID-19 reported in Grey-Bruce Thursday, according to the Grey Bruce Health Unit’s daily situation report.

The new case brings the regional total to 119 with four active cases reported now in Grey-Bruce. The newest case was reported in West Grey, according to the health unit’s data.

Trillium Court, a long-term care home in Kincardine, remains under a declared COVID-19 outbreak. The outbreak was declared Tuesday after a staff member reportedly showed symptoms of COVID-19 Saturday and was tested the same day.

The Grey Bruce Health Unit’s targeted COVID-19 testing at local businesses is underway with more than 300 volunteers at Bruce Power agreeing to be swabbed for the study.

Those tests recently wrapped up, and testing at Chapman’s Ice Cream in Markdale is about to begin.

Employees have been asked to volunteer for the study and submit to a COVID-19 swab test every five days for 15 days.

Dr. Ian Arra, Grey Bruce’s medical officer of health, said the testing should illuminate a lot of unknowns with the novel coronavirus and the testing protocols themselves.

“The study is going to capture not just cases but other outcomes. One of them is false-positives, another one is it’s a feasibility study to see how much effort, how much time, how many resources are put into this and the optimal way to test,” he said. “What’s the optimal number of people to be tested in one day? How many nurses, how many physicians do you need to test that group? How fast can the testing go? It will provide answers to many questions that we all don’t have because it’s a novel virus.”

He didn’t expect many positive results, given the low number of cases throughout the region currently, but said there’s a lot of data to be gleaned from both the testing and post-test surveys. For example, the reasons a volunteer would opt out of the tests.

“We want to know why. There will be some data about compliance of the test. Is it comfortable? It’s not. Is it related to anxiety? People who completed the test could be very anxious about COVID and that could be based on their gender, their level of education, the type of work they do. All these variables are still being crunched and will be crunched when we complete the post-survey,” Arra said.

The health unit looked at three criteria when deciding which businesses to test: how critical the business is, the risk of virus transmission at the business, and how practical testing employees would be at the business.

The first sector the health unit looked at was grocery stores, but it was decided testing would be impractical due to the number of employers needed to consult and the small sample size of employees at each business location spread throughout the region.

“When you deal with one employer it’s very practical. You get the consent from the volunteers, and in the case of Bruce Power they have their own occupational health team that has been doing their own testing,” Arra said. “Practicality-wise it’s top of the list. Critical-wise it’s high on the list. The level of transmission, it’s not very high.”

Arra said the health unit hopes to next test employees at dental offices, where the risk of virus transmission is elevated.

“By nature, some of these procedures could be high-risk for transmission because they generate aerosols. They are aerosol-producing procedures,” he said.

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