Canadian associate Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe warned against mass COVID-19 testing so that resources can be reallocated to test and treat only suspected cases.
Dr. Yaffe opened with, “A lot of people think that testing is going to really solve the whole problem, and it isn’t. It’s one component of a response. If you test somebody today, you only know if they’re infected today. And in fact, if you’re testing in a population that doesn’t have very much COVID, you’ll get false positives almost half the time. That is, the person actually doesn’t have COVID. They have something else. They may have nothing.”
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Dr. Yaffe continues, “So it will just complicate the picture. On the other hand, if we have evidence of a case, even a suspect case in a school, all the contacts of that case, be it a child or a teacher, would be tested regardless of whether they’re symptomatic or not. That is something we’ve learned with COVID. It’s very important to do that. That is when we might be identifying people who are asymptomatic and infected that need to stay home and wait till they’re cleared by Public Health. Doing testing on all the teachers would be a huge amount of resources taken away from the need for quick access to testing when somebody may be symptomatic.”
Dr. Yaffe states, “We also need to do screening for symptoms and everybody needs to be educated about the symptoms to look for and not go to work if you’re sick. Not go to school if you’re sick. Those are the things that are important, along with handwashing, distancing, masking all the things we’re talking about. Testing will not actually achieve anything other than take resources away from other places. They need to be.“
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