Grey Bruce Public Health leader explains who should be tested for COVID-19

Grey Bruce Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Ian Arra

The Grey Bruce Medical Officer of Health has issued a warning that parents do not need to get their children tested for COVID-19 if they have no symptoms, and no close contacts to other confirmed cases.

Dr. Ian Arra said there would be not practical benefit to the test, but there would be potential harm.

He said testing for COVID-19 can be a traumatic event for some children and create possible short-term or long-term anxiety.

He added it could offer false reassurance because it is possible to test negative while incubating the virus, then develop symptoms and test positive a short while later. Testing in people who have no symptoms can also result in false positives creating unintended anxiety. Imagine getting a call from Public Health letting you know that you and your family have been exposed to COVID-19, when in fact you were not? Now

“Imagine that this happens to a number of families as their children attend the same class or school. This is not acceptable in my mind, and could cause significant harm. To that end, as the Grey Bruce Medical Officer of Health, it is important to share that there are no practical benefits of mass testing, or anxiety-driven testing, of asymptomatic individuals and that potential harms are significant. As a key step in becoming a medical doctor, I took an Oath that governs my practice; the most crucial promise within that oath is “First, do no harm”. for families, as well as forcing self isolation, and the inability to attend work or school,” said Dr. Arra.

He explained, “Testing people with no symptoms puts undue pressure on provincial testing capacity and delays the results for people that actually do have symptoms. Delays in receiving results can pose significant risk to facilities that may be battling true outbreaks.”

Dr. Arra would only recommend getting a COVID-19 test if Public Health has let you know that you are a Close Contact to someone who has COVID-19, based on a thorough risk assessment completed only by Public Health. Deciding who is a Close Contact is a decision that can only be made by Public Health. This decision as to who is a Close Contact cannot be made by your health care provider or school officials.

You should also be tested if your health care provider has told you to get tested because you have COVID-19 related symptoms.

If neither of these situations exists, testing would NOT be suggested, and in fact, Public Health strongly recommends against it.

Dr. Arra added, “Despite the efforts, yesterday evening local physician leaders informed me that the assessment centres’ capacity was pushed to the limit. Based on our local data from the previous few days, over 90% of individuals seeking testing had no symptoms.”