People who are experiencing cold and flu symptoms can now get tested for COVID-19 as part of British Columbia's expanded testing strategy, health officials said Monday.
Health authorities in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley both said they are providing testing to anyone with cold, flu or COVID-19 symptoms, regardless of how mild those symptoms might be.
"Testing can be done through a primary care provider, walk-in clinic, urgent and primary care centre or community collection centre," Vancouver Coastal Health said in a news release.
People planning to seek a COVID-19 test are told to call in advance rather than just showing up at a clinic or testing site.
Last week, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said anyone experiencing COVID-19 symptoms could get testing as part of B.C.'s expanded strategy, but listed "cough, fever and shortness of breath" as the signs to watch for.
On Monday, Vancouver Coastal Health said people can also request testing for symptoms such as chills, sore throat, runny nose, nasal congestion, painful swallowing, lost sense of smell, headache, muscle aches, fatigue and loss of appetite.
There is still no reason for people with no symptoms at all to get tested, officials added.
The broader approach comes amid heightened concerns about people going to work or otherwise leaving the house while carrying the virus.
Officials revealed last week that workers at United Poultry Ltd. in East Vancouver, which now has 34 confirmed COVID-19 infections, stayed on the job despite feeling unwell. Fraser Health has also confirmed employees at multiple care homes continued working even though they were experiencing mild symptoms.
"We have identified a few situations where staff have been mildly symptomatic and have continued to work and this is actually not what we're recommending," Dr. Martin Lavoie said Monday.
"It's actually mild for most people, but you can transmit it, and that's why it's so important that you not go to work when you even have mild symptoms."
The health authority would not confirm the names of the care homes where employees came to work sick.
Under the expanded strategy, some people will continue to be given priority access to COVID-19 tests, including residents and staff at long-term care facilities, health-care workers, people living in group settings such as work camps and prisons, residents of remote or Indigenous communities, homeless people, and anyone likely to be admitted to hospital soon such as pregnant women and cancer patients.