Readers ask about PCR test cycles, asymptomatic testing

·2 min read

Brandon Sun readers request specific questions be asked about COVID-19.

QUESTION: Will Manitoba will be lowering the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test cycles, which is currently 40 cycles? The World Health Organization has said to reduce the cycles to under 30 to help prevent any false positives.

DR. JAZZ ATWAL: Great question. We work closely with our lab and we have been from the beginning. We have a standard in place in relation to PCR testing and how we utilize that result. We’re going to continue to work with her lab to ensure that the results that we get are accurate.

We do look at specific numbers all the way through, so if there are question marks in relation to is this a true positive or a remnant, etc., we are looking at those CT (cycle threshold) values in relation to that. But there’s no plan on changing that, at this point. Again, we look at what’s happening provincially here, we also talk to our national partners in public health right across the country, as well.

QUESTION: Regarding the testing pilot project at care homes — at least one worker at Donwood Manor was confirmed to be COVID-19 positive after an asymptomatic test, and Donwood subsequently declared an outbreak. Dr. Roussin and Premier Pallister like to compare their handling of the pandemic to that of other provinces, and they like talk about all the "what-ifs" — like the 1,700 lives their restrictions saved. So how many lives did this one, that we know of, asymptomatic test save? How many lives has NOT testing asymptomatically cost?

ATWAL: The information on the pilot program, it’s being analyzed right now. We have to review it on the public health side to look at the impact of that, as well. I mean, care homes are, you could argue, some of the most protected places. We have staff, we have procedures and processes in place, including full use of PPE. Obviously, there still are issues in those environments, including hospitals.

So we’re gonna have to review that information, review the data, review what that test result meant, as well. I believe there’s some information on that coming out soon. I don’t have the exact date for that. But, once we have that information, we’ll be able to better look at the risk and the impact of that program, as well.

Do you have a question about something in your community? Send your questions to with the subject line: Readers Ask.

Michèle LeTourneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun