March 9, 2021
The risk of COVID-19 infection will be high for several months yet, even as vaccinations become increasingly available across BC.
Construction employers are asking about the availability of testing kits in an effort to be pro-active and enhance the safety protocols on their worksites as industry heads into the busy Spring season.
The availability of rapid testing kits for construction employers in Alberta and Ontario has added to industry’s demand for information here in BC. In Alberta and Ontario they are currently using tests purchased and supplied by the Canadian government, and in addition the Ontario government has purchased a further 9.5 million of the Panbio Nasal tests.
BCCA and COCA have been working together to answer your questions (and our own) about testing availability. Here’s what we learned.
DOES BC HAVE AN ADEQUATE SUPPLY OF ACCURATE RAPID-RESPONSE TESTS THAT COULD BE USED IN PRIVATE SECTOR?
Yes. The testing kits for BC are currently in the strategic reserve and held under the province’s control, with no public access.
The Government of Canada bought about 40 million of (1) Abbott Panbio Antigen Tests, and (2) BD Veritor Antigen Tests. About half of these tests have been shipped, including BC’s share. The tests have been in BC for several months and have been used by the province sparingly in several pilot situations to determine their “best use”.
The accuracy of the current tests is + 94%, Federal Health officials.
Health officials in Ontario, Alberta, and Newfoundland believe in the value of testing asymptomatic people, as do the Business Council of Canada and many corporate leaders.
HOW CAN EMPLOYERS IN BC’S ESSENTIAL INDUSTRIES ACCESS THE TESTS?
BC’s private companies cannot access the tests yet, regardless of industry.
WHEN WILL THE RAPID-RESPONSE TESTS BE AVAILABLE?
We anticipate the tests will be made available in BC by the end of March or early April.
The BC Ministry of Health is developing “Guidance on Industry-Initiated COVID 19 Rapid Testing” documents and plans to release the tests when these operational guidelines are ready. This is necessary to ensure the administration and delivery of rapid testing is done properly.
The BC Guidance document will outline how the kits are to be administered, including health and safety, employment, and privacy requirements, acceptable locations and who can give the tests.
The College of BC Physicians and Surgeons is working to approve the two rapid testing technologies that have already been approved by Health Canada and provided in large quantities for the Provinces to distribute.
HOW DO I GET MY COMPANY ON THE LIST WITH THE PROVINCE TO RECEIVE A SUPPLY OF TESTS AS SOON AS THEY ARE AVAILABLE?
These details have not yet been provided by the Province.
BCCA and COCA are working with the provincial government to assist where we can in preparing a distribution plan for the construction industry. (See “7” below for more information on how you can get involved.)
IS ASYMPTOMATIC COVID-19 TESTING IMPORTANT OR USEFUL?
Testing can determine if you have COVID-19. This is an important step to help reduce the spread of the virus. When a person tests positive for COVID-19, they stay home or isolate.
Testing is used to determine if someone currently has COVID-19. COVID-19 testing is done by swishing and gargling salt water and spitting it into a tube or by using a swab to collect a sample from a person’s nose. Learn more:
- When and where to get a COVID-19 test
- How to get your test result
- What your test result means
- Prepare for a mouth rinse and gargle test
- How laboratory testing guidelines have changed over time
Antibody testing is a type of test that can be used to determine if someone had COVID-19 in the past. You can learn more about it here:
Find out more here at the BC CDC site.
WHEN SHOULD I PROACTIVELY TEST MY ASYMPTOMATIC CONSTRUCTION CREW AND STAFF?
Federal Health Officials recommend that employees that regularly come into contact with one another should be tested once every two weeks. Both the Alberta and Ontario guidelines require that a person with positive rapid test result must leave the site and report to a Provincial facility for a PCR test. Only the PCR (the most accurate test) test result will count in official of positive tests reported by the province. Quarantine and contact tracing will follow from a positive test from a provincially approved lab.
Also, you need a COVID-19 test if:
- You are a close contact of someone who tested positive for COVID-19 AND
A close contact is generally someone who has been near a person with COVID-19 for at least 15 minutes when health and safety measures were not in place or were insufficient. This includes up to two days before someone develops symptoms.
For more information on close contacts go to the close contacts page of the BCCDC website.
- You have 1 or more of these symptoms:
- Key symptoms of COVID-19 include:
- Fever or chills
- Loss of sense of smell or taste
- Difficulty breathing
- Other symptoms may include:
- Sore throat
- Loss of appetite
- Extreme fatigue or tiredness
- Body aches
- Nausea or vomiting
- Key symptoms of COVID-19 include:
WHAT WILL THE TESTING COST/HOW SHOULD I BUDGET?
The tests themselves will be distributed for free with some conditions (e.g., no resale, for use only in Canada, and to be used in compliance with Provincial Guidelines on testing and rapid screening).
The cost for administering and reporting on the testing will be borne by employers. Final costs are not yet available and will likely be impacted the requirements detailed in the final guideline documents that the Province is preparing.
The federal government is paying $6/unit price for a bulk buy. The retail price for the Panbio Nasal Test is from $19.99 -$17.49 /unit based on volume, and the BD Veritor retail price varies from $39.99-$37.50/unit.
There is an additional cost of an analyzer instrument at $500 each for the BC Veritor tests. The tool to analyze the Panbio tests is included in the kit.
WHAT OTHER STEPS CAN I TAKE AS CONSTRUCTION EMPLOYER?
COCA and BCCA have two early-adopter opportunities for employers interested in COVID 19 rapid test screening for asymptomatic employees.
- If you would like to participate in our work developing a roll-out plan for the testing across BC’s construction industry, we welcome your input. Our intention is to bring forward to the BC Government a case for the BC construction industry to have initial access to testing as an essential industry.
- Large companies and project owners (500+ employees in BC) that wish to deploy testing at scale and have a high IT capacity can join us in exploring forming a BC Construction Industry Cohort Group in the Pilot Project being administered by the Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) for larger Canadian companies.
If you’re interested in either of these opportunities, please provide your information by following this link
Briefings will be arranged to provide more information on both opportunities for interested companies that have provided their information.
Thank you for all you do for BC’s construction industry.
The teams at BCCA and COCA