Last modified: 
01/07/2021 - 12:41

Currently, COVID-19 testing prioritizes symptomatic individuals for COVID-19 testing, including those with mild symptoms.

The goal of testing is to identify, isolate, provide care for individuals with COVID-19 and conduct contact tracing.

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How does a COVID-19 test work?

A swab from the back your nose or throat is collected for testing. The ability to pick up virus with a swab depends on the “viral load” which is the amount of virus present.

For a test to accurately determine if a person is COVID-19 positive, the individual must be at the stage in their illness where there is enough virus present in their nose or throat for the swab to pick up.

Who gets tested?

Anyone who has any symptom of COVID-19 should contact their health care provider to be assessed for COVID-19 testing.

How do I get tested for COVID-19?

If you or someone in your household is experiencing symptoms, stay home and call ahead to be assessed for testing:

If you are having difficulty breathing or your symptoms are severe, call 9-1-1.

Testing and isolation

When you have been tested for COVID-19, you must isolate at-home. If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, your health care provider will give you directions on how to isolate. 

If you have been tested for COVID-19, but have no known exposures or travel within the last 14 days: 

Your health care provider may discontinue isolation once:

  • You have received a negative COVID-19 test result as-communicated by a health care provider
  • You do not have a fever
  • Your symptoms have improved

Always follow the advice of your health care provider. They are trained to recognize risk and may require you to isolate for a longer period of time if there is any reason for concern. 

Rapid Testing

The value in rapid testing is fast identification, contact tracing and management of positive cases.

Rapid testing is expanding in the Northwest Territories with additional supplies for existing machines, and four new devices are being installed and validated. Most tests are now able to be run on rapid machines. In the coming weeks, this capacity will increase even more.

Anyone who is assessed as requiring a COVID-19 test may now get a rapid test. The target turnaround time is within 24 hours of receiving the sample at the laboratory. This does not mean all tests will come back within a day of being collected because tests need to be brought to a laboratory.

For more information on rapid testing, click here. 

Asymptomatic Testing

While many have heard of asymptomatic testing going on in other provinces, asymptomatic testing must be approached carefully.

At this time, the NWT is not prioritizing asymptomatic testing because symptomatic testing is believed to be the most reliable at picking up cases of COVID-19.

People can have the virus for days before showing any symptoms.  Getting tested when they do not have enough of the virus in their body can lead to a false negative test because the test could not detect the small amount of virus.

This could lead to a false sense of security for people who have been tested, yet have been directed to continue to self-isolate by a health care practitioner.

This means any strategy for asymptomatic testing must be specifically targeted to be helpful to public health professionals.

The NWT will always re-evaluate public health approaches as new evidence emerges.

Wastewater (Sewage) Testing

Similar to other viruses such as norovirus and polio, the virus that causes COVID-19 can also be found in human waste. Collecting sewage samples could help serve as an early warning system that the virus is present in a community. It can help public health officials provide targeted advice to communities as the pandemic continues.

Finding COVID-19 in wastewater does not necessarily mean there is active COVID-19 transmission in the community.

Wastewater is being tested for COVID-19 in Yellowknife and Hay River. Testing will be implemented for Fort Simpson and Fort Smith in the coming weeks. This covers about half the NWT population, and 100% of the territory’s isolation centres.