B.C.’s online self-assessment tool for COVID-19 rose to a million users within days of being launched, and people are starting to use the new toll-free line for non-medical information about the coronavirus outbreak.
The new services are to take some of the load off B.C.’s overburdened 8-1-1 HealthLinkBC line, which has been dealing with up to 4,000 calls per day this week and is struggling to provide advice from nurses on all medical conditions.
The 1-888-COVID19 line (1-888-268-4319) is to provide non-medical information and help people decide if they should seek testing. Health Minister Adrian Dix said by March 18 the new line had received nearly 2,000 calls per day. It also accepts text messages to 604-630-0300.
The B.C. COVID-19 Symptom Self-Assessment Tool, a questionnaire on the B.C. Centre for Disease Control website, went from 779,000 visits to one million in a single day this week, Dix said. Located at covid19.thrive.health (or search BC COVID-19 Self Assessment Tool), the web survey steps people through their symptoms, risk factors and travel history, and gives them recommendations.
Managing demand for COVID-19 testing has also been a struggle, as B.C. ramped up from a few hundred tests per week to what Dix expects will be more than 17,000 in total by Friday. Tests are being limited to people showing symptoms, and existing cases continue to be tested to see when they are no longer shedding virus and can resume normal activities.
For those who need testing, Health Canada has changed regulations to speed up the distribution of two common test kits for COVID-19, with an interim order signed by federal Health Minister Patti Hajdu.
“This interim order may also help ensure Canadian access to other marketed COVID-19 related medical devices to treat, mitigate or prevent COVID-19, as necessary,” Health Canada said in a statement.