On April 10, 2020, Premier Doug Ford announced the details of the next phase of Ontario’s strategy to significantly expand and enhance COVID-19 testing. Premier Ford was joined by Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams.
Following this afternoon’s announcement, Premier Ford, Minister Elliott and Dr. Williams took questions from media.
Expanded COVID-19 Testing Strategy
This afternoon, Premier Ford announced the next phase of Ontario’s strategy to expand and enhance COVID-19 testing. Enhancing the province’s testing regime is part of a three-pronged strategy to curb the spread of COVID-19, which also involves widespread social distancing and ongoing efforts to procure essential personal protective equipment and supplies for frontline workers.
Ontario’s enhanced testing strategy is expected to double the number of tests processed each day to 8,000 by April 15 and 14,000 by April 29. Premier Ford added that if Ontario is able to ramp up testing more quickly than this outlook suggests, the province will do so.
Going forward, Ontario’s testing strategy will involve proactively testing the following priority groups, representing vulnerable populations and/or those at higher risk of exposure:
- Hospital inpatients;
- Residents of long-term care and retirement homes;
- Health care workers, caregivers, care providers, paramedics and first responders, including police and firefighters;
- Remote, isolated, rural and Indigenous communities;
- Other congregate living centres, including homeless shelters, prisons and group homes;
- Specific vulnerable populations, including patients undergoing chemotherapy or hemodialysis and requiring transplants, as well as pregnant persons, newborns and cross-border workers; and
- Other essential workers, as defined by provincial orders.
The strategic testing of the above priority groups is in addition to the ongoing testing of the general public at the province’s 100 assessments centres. Ontario has also broadened the list of symptoms related to COVID-19 and has indicated specific additional symptoms to watch for in seniors.
In response to requests for more detail about the testing and treatment of Ontario’s homeless population, Minister Elliott reiterated that the government wants to ensure homeless populations are receiving the care and support they need. She pointed to the arrangements that the City of Toronto has made with hotels to accommodate homeless residents and added that Ontario is considering taking a similar approach on a provincial scale.
When asked why Ontario’s new testing strategy does not involve testing all residents and workers in long-term care facilities, as is being done in Quebec, Minister Elliott explained that Ontario is concentrating its resources on the 99 long-term care homes in the province that have reported outbreaks of COVID-19. In homes with outbreaks, there will be extensive testing of staff and residents who may have come into contact with a COVID-19 positive individual.