The Ontario government is expanding and enhancing testing for COVID-19. In addition to the ongoing testing of the general public at any of the 100 assessment centres now established across the province, several priority groups will be proactively tested, including:
- 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.
This testing strategy follows extensive efforts to expand Ontario’s lab testing capacity, which helped to quickly eliminate a backlog of approximately 10,000 people within less than two weeks. To date, the province has conducted over 94,000 tests.
The province has re-established same-day testing results, which are now conveniently accessible to patients through a new user-friendly online portal. This portal will help ease pressure on public health units and frontline workers, allowing them to focus their efforts on combating COVID-19. The province is also helping to significantly expand the capacity of public health units to conduct contact tracing and case management, both of which are critical to stopping the spread of the virus, by enabling the use of volunteers, including retired nurses and medical students.
People who have tested negative for COVID-19 must still follow all precautions, including staying at home except to pick up essential supplies like groceries and prescriptions, and keeping at least two-meters apart from others. While an individual may receive a negative test at a given moment in time, the individual is still able to contract and spread the virus.
The province is also updating the list of symptoms related to COVID-19, including a hoarse voice, difficulty swallowing, loss of sense of smell or taste, diarrhea or nausea/vomiting. For seniors, there are additional symptoms including chills, delirium with no other obvious reason, falls, acute functional decline, increased heart rate and decreased blood pressure. These updated symptoms are in addition to difficulty breathing, fever, cough, muscle aches, fatigue, headache, sore throat and runny nose.
All Ontarians should stay home unless for essential reasons only, such as such as accessing health care services, shopping for groceries, picking up medication, walking pets when required, or supporting vulnerable community members with meeting essential needs. If you must leave your home, stay at least two meters apart from others.
Yelich,I. and Chazan,H. (2020,Apr.10) Ontario Significantly Expanding COVID-19 Testing [media release]