N.S. health authority sees high demand for rapid COVID-19 tests

N.S. health authority sees high demand for rapid COVID-19 tests

Nova Scotia Health is acknowledging an increase in demand for COVID-19 rapid tests at community distribution centres like public libraries and says "work is underway to meet the need."

In a news release on Tuesday, the health authority said there have been delays in getting rapid tests to regional libraries. It said 233,620 rapid tests were given out in July — close to 34,000 more than in June.

"Public Health has seen an increase in demand for rapid tests this summer. People are travelling, they're socializing with people outside of the usual peer group, and they're taking measures to ensure they're doing so safely," Dr. Catherine Brown told CBC News in an interview Tuesday.

"We're really working with our community distribution partners to meet this demand."

The health authority is recommending people only take a rapid test if they're symptomatic — even if it's just one mild symptom.

Brown also recommends homes have a box "on hand in case symptoms develop."

"Public Health continues to recommend that people stay home if they're sick. And that's really the No. 1 thing that Nova Scotians can be doing if they develop any symptoms compatible with COVID-19," said Brown, the regional medical officer of health for the central zone.

'It's very frustrating'

Nancy Whalen, a Dartmouth resident, says it's been frustrating trying to track down rapid tests for her family. She's tried multiple libraries without success, and had no luck getting through to someone at her MLA's office to arrange a time to pick up a kit.

"Going to the library, I was greeted with, 'Sorry, I don't know if we're getting more. All out.' One was that they were getting another shipment, another was, 'I don't think we're getting another shipment,' and the other one was, 'We don't know when we're getting more.' That was two in Dartmouth and one in Halifax," Whalen said.

Whalen said she's hoping she and her family can avoid getting COVID-19. She says they all still wear masks and test when they can. When the family developed cold symptoms and weren't able to get a rapid test kit, she said it was very concerning.

"We were very symptomatic so we were worried we had COVID. We don't see many people anyway, but I have a senior mom who just went through cancer surgery and keeping people safe is very important to us. It's very frustrating that we're told we're on our own, but we're going to give you these tools, but we don't have those tools at all."

In addition to most public libraries, rapid tests are also available at family resource centres, MLA offices and public health mobile units. Tests are also available for people using the services of Feed Nova Scotia and Access Nova Scotia.

People are also able to pick-up rapid tests online and certain people can still book a PCR test.

"If you go to the online website, you can see the full list of all Nova Scotians who are eligible for the PCR test, but it largely includes Nova Scotians who are higher risk of COVID-19 and severe disease," Brown said.

"All Nova Scotians over the age of 50 are eligible, as well as Nova Scotians who may have medical comorbidities. So those are Nova Scotians who may have cancer, chronic lung disease, chronic heart disease, diabetes, obesity, etc. That puts them individually at higher risk."

Nova Scotia Health says once people take a test, they should fill out the online report and support screening form. By doing this, people who are considered to be at a higher risk are able to access medications and treatments as soon as possible.

Nova Scotia Health says filling out the from is important since the medications need to be taken in the first week of symptoms developing. The form should be filled out as soon as they book a PCR test or have received a positive rapid test result.