Premier Doug Ford says the province is ramping up testing for COVID-19.  In his daily briefing, he said there are three things that will make a difference against the fight against the virus, “One, stay at home and practice physical distancing. Two getting the equipment we need for our frontline workers. Three increasing testing capacity and the number of tests that we do each day.”

“We’re laser-focused on ramping up our testing capacity so we can protect the most vulnerable in our communities and those who protect them, like our frontline health care workers and first responders,” said Premier Ford. “By expanding our testing capacity, we will be able to find cases faster, intervene earlier, reduce the spread, and save lives.”

In a Testing Strategy media brief this afternoon, provincial officials released the updated COVID-19 testing guidance Ontario Health implemented April 9th.  The goal of the testing is to diagnose individuals to help guide clinical care and to decrease the spread of the virus in Ontario through enhanced case identification and epidemiology.

The estimated targeted volume capacity impact expected per day following these updated criteria is an increase of 8,250 tests a day and averaging at a total of 13,250 Ontarians tested daily.

It should be noted that the following revised testing criteria are for any symptomatic Ontarians. That is because if an individual has no symptoms and tests negative, it’s important to note that person could be in their incubation period or become infected from subsequent contact.

A test is a “point-in-time” picture, so a negative test in an asymptomatic person will require repeated testing to know if they remain negative. As such Ontario Health recommends asymptomatic testing only in certain high-risk settings like an institutional outbreak, because of the severe outcomes associated with even the small chance of asymptomatic spread.

Revised testing in effect as of Thursday, April 9th.

  1. Hospital and assessment center patients for whom a test is indicated either by inclusion in a priority group (vulnerable groups). Noting that the decision for a test would always be at the discretion of the clinician.
  2. Hospital inpatients and long-term care and residential home patients requiring or likely requiring inpatient admission as well as patients who are residents in long-term care, nursing homes, and retirement homes.
  3. Patients who are Hospital workers, caregivers such as volunteers and family members and care providers as in employees and privately hired support workers as well as first responders.
  4. This also includes all other healthcare workers and employees in health care service delivery settings who may not be covered by previous guidance updates such as clinics, home care, community care, and primary care as well as first responders and emergency services employees i.e. police, paramedics and fire services.
  5. Symptomatic patients currently living on, returning from or planning to enter an identified First Nations or Indigenous reserve or in remote, isolated and rural areas.
  6. Patients from other congregate living and Institutions such as homeless shelters, prisons, daycare for essential workers, group homes, community supported living, disability-specific communities and congregate settings as well as the associated workforce.

As for testing criteria, Ontario Health is currently working on and expects to see implemented within the coming weeks, provincial officials aim to target specific vulnerable populations such as chemo/cancer patients, hemodialysis patients, transplant patients, pregnant persons, newborns, frequent travelers, and cross-border workers, as well as non-healthcare essential workers per provincial guidance.

The province also aims to begin taking a targeted surveillance testing approach in an effort to expand to other locations, outpatient settings as well as northern settings and among children.

**With files from Wendy Gray & Mo Fahim