Concerns raised over Alberta’s falling COVID-19 testing numbers

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The number of COVID-19 tests performed in Alberta has been on a downward trend, and concern is being raised that it could result in fewer cases being found.

On Feb. 3, more than 13,000 tests were performed but that soon fell to roughly 6,200 by Feb.7. Similarly, on Feb, 9, more than 10,000 tests were conducted but by Feb. 15, it was closer to 5,200.

A line graph showing tests performed in Alberta since the start of February. Tonia Gloweski/Global News

Tuesday’s positivity rate of five per cent, which came as a result of a lower number of tests completed — 5,216 — prompted some concern on Tuesday from the chief medical officer of health.

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“This is an increase from where we have been in the past few weeks, which is concerning,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said.

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“It is possible this increase is because of changes in who went for testing over the long weekend, so we will be watching closely in the days to come to see if this is an isolated finding or a concerning trend.”

Epidemiologist Dr. Kirsten Fiest with the University of Calgary said she is not surprised to see the downward trend in the amount of testing, saying it is almost certainly a reflection of the downward trend being seen in case counts.

Read more: How prevalent are variants? A closer look at what — and where — they are in Canada

But she said it is a bit worrying.

“It’s concerning because we know there has always been this asymptomatic spread and so by doing less testing, we’re less likely to catch that. Now we’re not sure what the true, necessarily, burden and distribution of COVID is because the less tests we do, the less cases we’re going to find,” Fiest said.

Read more: South zone COVID-19 numbers trending differently than the rest of Alberta

The epidemiologist said it is hard to say what would be the ideal number of tests done but, with fewer cases of COVID-19, she said it may be time to consider a different testing strategy.

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“Do we need to open it up for more testing? Do we need to consider rapid testing, which has pros and cons? Do we need to be looking at, in general I think, what we’re doing with testing? I think that needs to happen…I think it needs to be responsive to whatever is going on in our province,” Fiest said.

Fiest said another factor that could be contributing to fewer number of tests performed is the fact more health-care workers have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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