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Ontario will now test anyone with symptoms for COVID-19: minister
Healthcare workers do testing at a drive-thru COVID-19 assessment centre at the Etobicoke General Hospital in Toronto on April 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Published Thursday, May 14, 2020 10:21AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, May 14, 2020 6:28PM EDT
Ontario is expanding its testing guidance for COVID-19 to include anyone displaying symptoms of the disease in the community for the first time since the outbreak began, as a sector-wide screen of long-term care residents is nearly finished.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said that on Thursday, the Ministry of Health will update its testing guidance for doctors so that people displaying symptoms will be tested, even if they are not tied to a priority sector such as long-term care, hospital or an otherwise vulnerable community group.
Since May 2, testing has been directed at long-term care residents and staff, hospital patients and staff, families of hospital patients and staff, essential workers including first responders, cross-border workers, Indigenous communities and residents or staff of other congregate settings such as shelters, group homes or correctional facilities.
Asked why Ontario wasn't always testing people outside of those groups who showed symptoms, Elliott said assessment centres were, but testing decisions were left up to the supervising clinician.
"We were doing testing before at the assessment centres but it was based on the judgment of the clinician who was in charge of the assessment centre."
Ontario Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Williams said there were some circumstances in the past where a person was not sick enough to warrant a test.
“In the past there was reason to say – if you had mild symptoms where there was really no change in you clinical outcome, you’d still be asked to isolate from your family members for a 14-day period,” he said. “Now because we would like to know more about the public writ large, we’ve opened it up to say we’d like to do more testing.”
Testing of asymptomatic persons in the community generally does not occur, as asymptomatic testing is only be done on close contacts of confirmed cases in congregate settings or as otherwise recommended by local public health units.
Ontario has slowly but steadily increased its testing capacity for the virus, from a few thousand per day in March to up to 20,000 per day in May.
Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe said that now that the sector-wide test of long-term care residents and staff is coming to a close, it will open up more capacity to test the general public.