Pandemic Failures: Testing

Almost two years into the pandemic and testing has failed, as Omicron surges. Where I live, we can’t get tests. This includes PCR and rapid antigen tests. To clarify, testing is available for a limited group of people who meet strict criteria.

For the rest of us, we’ve been told to assume every symptom is covid and to self-isolate for 5 days. This includes headaches, sniffles, runny noses, and more serious symptoms. However, without testing to confirm, how can we know if we’ve actually had covid? If I get a runny nose, or a headache, four times this winter, how can I know if I had covid one of those times? Or maybe none of those times? Or maybe I had it more than once? Each time, I’m assuming and self-isolating, as instructed. What about the people who don’t have jobs where they can work from home?

More importantly, people who have symptoms and don’t have covid, will be delaying treatment. For example, a friend of mine had to keep her kid home from daycare due to an outbreak. After four days her kid still had a temperature. She was finally able to take the kid to the doctor and found out the fever was from an ear infection. Did her kid start out with covid that turned into an ear infection? She’ll never know.

Rapid tests aren’t readily available. If they are, they cost hundreds of times more what they cost to produce (e.g., $40 for one test at the pharmacy). It’s obnoxious to be price gouging for a thing like this during a severe outbreak.

Schools were closed for the first weeks in January. They’re open today, but the province has already declared they won’t be tracking covid outbreaks in schools. Instead they’ll report absences, but without qualifying what the absences are from.

When I blogged about problems with testing last year, it was about the trouble booking them. Now the problem is we can’t get them. Without testing, there’s no tracking. Without tracking, there’s no accurate data to actually know who got infected, or when. It’s all based on assumption. Personally, I’d like to know if the headache and malaise I experienced last week after a known exposure was covid. Maybe I got lucky with mild symptoms. Then again, maybe it was just a headache and pandemic fatigue. I’ll never know.

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