COVID-19 rapid tests rapidly disappear
The hunt for rapid COVID-19 testing kits have proved quite difficult for many residents, with the five free tests promised to every Quebecer each month nearly impossible to find.
According to the province, three million rapid tests will be distributed beginning Jan. 11, with each pharmacy expected to receive an average of 300 kits by Jan. 14, and a similar shipment the following week.
To make matters worse, the demand for rapid tests was compounded on Jan. 5 when the province announced it would be restricting polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing for symptomatic individuals, including hospitalized patients, emergency room patients, healthcare staff, long-term care residents and essential care providers. PCR tests would also be reserved for Indigenous communities and residents travelling to those communities for work.
The new guideline was announced in order to better manage the demand on both the screening clinic and laboratory level. According to data from CISSSO, more than 2,000 PCR tests were administered each day from Jan. 1, until the new guideline was announced. The day before the announcement, the province screened nearly 47,000 residents, well exceeding the functional capacity of 30,000 per day.
When the province’s Health Minister Chirstian Dubé originally announced the plan to offer a box of five rapid tests every 30 days – sending 10 million rapid tests to 1,900 pharmacies across the country on Dec. 17 – many residents were left empty-handed as pharmacies ran out of stock within an hour of being available.
Erin Kuhns, who lives in Lascelles, was one of the lucky ones who managed to get her hands on a box of tests on Dec. 23, which she attributes to the fact she works from home and could spend the day constantly refreshing the Proxim Pharmacy webpage until an appointment became available.
“I had the luxury to do that for hours,” Kuhns said, explaining that she started her search at around 9:30 a.m. “I was refreshing the page every 10 minutes until 1:30 p.m. when I finally got my appointment.”
Kuhns said when she finally got an appointment, it was for 3:15 p.m. that same day, and said if she had been at work or had young children she might not have been able to make it.
“It’s not a process that would work for a lot of people,” Kuhns said, adding that since she didn’t need all of her tests immediately, she could at least hold on to some in case someone else did.
“My thinking was, if I have the luxury to sit and refresh the page every few minutes, if I got my hands on them, I could share them if I need to,” Kuhns explained.
To find out when the pharmacy closest to you receives their delivery of rapid tests, you can follow either Proxim Isabelle Ménard in Chelsea or Brunette Pharmacy in Wakefield on Facebook, where they will be posting updates regularly. The province has also created a directory of pharmacies that can be found at bit.ly/3r4gARY.
The situation in the Outaouais:
As of the publishing deadline on Jan. 11, there are 6,531 active cases of COVID-19 in the region. CISSSO releases breakdowns of reported cases by region, which can be found at cisss-outaouais.gouv.qc.ca/covid-19. According to its data, the regional breakdown of active cases, including the change since Dec. 19, is as follows:
Papineau: 1,052 (+1030)
Vallée-de-la-Gatineau: 180 (+160)
Collines-de-l’Outaouais: 561 (+516)
Pontiac MRC: 213 (+201)
Gatineau: 4,442 (+4,138)
Furthermore, CISSSO releases data on total cases since the onset of the pandemic, broken down by municipality:
Val-des-Monts: 827 (+463)
L'Ange-Gardien: 495 (+299)
Cantley: 775 (+447)
Maniwaki: 257 (+111)
La Pêche: 229 (+107)
Papineauville: 52 (/)
Pontiac: 329 (+162)
Chelsea: 432 (+275)
City of Gatineau: 31,521 (+19,480)
Currently, there have been 224 reported deaths from COVID-19 in the Outaouais region since the beginning of the pandemic, according to CISSSO. Five people are currently hospitalized with one patient in intensive care in the region at the designated unit in Gatineau. CISSSO also indicates that 294 employees are currently affected by COVID-19.