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Antigen testing serves as early warning of potential COVID-19 infection at Georgian Manor

Since antigen test results do not require lab processing and are available in 30 minutes, the home's administration can move faster at the first potential signs of COVID-19 infections
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File photo

Nearly a year after the COVID-19 pandemic was first declared, local long-term care homes are putting lessons learned into action.

Sunset Manor in Collingwood started using rapid antigen tests on Feb. 16 to screen for COVID-19 in the home. Since results from the antigen test do not require lab processing and are available in 30 minutes, the home's administration can move faster at the first potential signs of COVID-19 infections. 

“Antigen testing is a powerful tool to help us identify (COVID-19 cases) much earlier and help us prevent spread,” said Jane Sinclair, general manager of health and emergency services with the County of Simcoe. 

So far two staff members at the home have received positive results on Mar. 1 and 2. The first staff member had a negative result come back through PCR/lab testing today, while the second is still waiting for their PCR results, expected tomorrow.

While the Sunset Manor is not currently in outbreak officially by the health unit while they await the PCR test results for one staff member, the two positive antigen results prompted the home to take proactive measures while they wait. The actions include placing 15 residents on the Collingwood-2 unit in isolation under droplet contact precautions and the remaining 17 on the same unit in quarantine with tray service for meals and suspending group activities.

Previously, no additional measures were taken until a swab result came back positive.

“All residents on the Collingwood-2 unit have participated in the vaccination program and were offered antigen testing today (Mar. 2). All antigen tests were confirmed negative,” wrote a county official in a statement posted to their website.

The two staff members who had tested positive through the antigen testing had both been fully vaccinated in February. Upon receiving their positive rapid test results they started self-isolating. 

“Prior to the antigen testing, we were doing weekly PCR testing which took about 48 hours to get results back so if we had an infection it could take maybe a week or longer to know we had an infection in a staff member,” said Sinclair. “Now, we’re testing our staff everyday. It’s a pretty dramatic and positive change."

The antigen testing program at all four county-operated long-term care homes, while started at Sunset Manor, was also rolled out at Trillium Manor in Orillia last week, Georgian Manor in Penetanguishene this week, with Simcoe Manor in Beeton planned to start next week.

“As some of them have seen outbreaks, there’s a three-week period before implementing,” said Sinclair.

According to the County of Simcoe, 93 per cent of all Sunset Manor residents have received both doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. More than 66 per cent of Sunset Manor staff have also been vaccinated.