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LETTER: Response to fearful attitude toward testing site

Editor: I wish to address the fears created by the July 23 letter from Mr. Levy. First, there is no threat to public health. The testing that is done involves a pharyngeal swab. This procedure does not create airborne droplets.


I wish to address the fears created by the July 23 letter from Mr. Levy. 

First, there is no threat to public health. The testing that is done involves a pharyngeal swab.

This procedure does not create airborne droplets. As such the two-metre distance recommended by Alberta Health is the measurement of concern.

Most people tested are within a vehicle that is momentarily parked in the handicap accessible parking at that spot. This spot was chosen as it has a broad area on either side of the vehicle that would meet the recommended two-metre spacing.

There is a specific well-spaced area in the event a person arrives on foot for testing that also meets the two-metre requirement. There is a very small window of time and space that a droplet might be created if a person getting tested were to cough or sneeze.

The test itself does not induce coughing or sneezing, but sometimes gagging. Gagging does not cause the spread of droplets.

The concern for airborne transmission continues to be hotly debated, with no solid "smoking gun" evidence that it is, or is not, transmitted via airborne droplets, such as tuberculosis or measles.

However, to quote the WHO: "short-range aerosol transmission cannot be ruled out in crowded, poorly ventilated spaces." 

The open air parking lot is a far cry from a poorly ventilated and crowded space. To conclude this point – the chance of transmission of COVID-19 at the Ridgeview testing site is non-existent.

Shoppers need not be afraid. There is no threat to public health.

If, despite these facts, one remains wary, then simply avoid the area between the hours of 2-3 p.m., the time during which the testing is performed.

While this may seem an inconvenience, the service offered has been a great convenience to the many people who have needed or desired testing and can receive this testing locally.

Many have not a vehicle or gas money to go to Calgary. We are the envy of most other rural locations in which local testing is not available.

Secondly, the businesses in this building were consulted. This was part of the concerted effort of the physician group, PCN, and AHS during the planning phases, and review phases, of provision of local testing.

Importantly we are seeing what could be the rise of the second wave of COVID-19 within Alberta. As the phased relaunch strategy has progressed, so too have the daily numbers risen.

It appears that both lax standards of hygiene, including distancing, hand washing and mask utilization, as well as increasing attendance at gatherings, are the likely culprits.

As per above, being in an enclosed area, especially with poor ventilation, greatly increases the transmission of the virus. Within the past few days, both Calgary and Edmonton have adopted indoor utilization of masks as mandatory. The Town of Banff has as well.

This is a simple step to take when indoors to greatly reduce one's chance of acquiring the virus if one is unknowingly exposed. If you are someone who is more susceptible to the ill effects of COVID-19 (groups including those above the age of 70, and people with other medical issues) please wear a mask, and continue to be very diligent about hygiene and distancing.

For those who are not in these demographics, please consider that your risk is not zero, and you may cross paths unknowingly with someone who is higher risk, and that your choices and actions could positively, or very negatively, affect others.

Also, the use of masks is a very simple step that will help to keep the curve broad and flat. A large spike will result in a reversal of the phased relaunch, which would negatively impact us all. A small long flat curve will allow our "new norm" to continue, which I feel we all agree is better than lockdown. 

The pandemic has done the equivalent to society as a meteorite would to the earth. This is a time of great uncertainty. We are all challenged in different ways, as the bedrock of our normal daily life was torn so suddenly and unexpectedly away.

However, we are a very adaptable species, so much so as to inhabit almost every corner of the world. Eventually this too we shall overcome.

In these anxious times it is easy to point fingers of accusation and blame, but such actions are rarely helpful. Rather than blame, fear or anger, I feel the two simple words that apply at all times are even more important now: be kind. 

Matt McIsaac, MD

Banff Mineral Springs Hospital Medical Director