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Ottawa discussing asymptomatic COVID-19 testing as Ontario gets set to expand program

Premier Doug Ford says he's eyeing a mobile spot-testing model being rolled out by a health unit in southern Ontario.

Ottawa's Chief Medical Officer of Health says discussions are underway to start testing asymptomatic residents for COVID-19 soon while Premier Doug Ford says Ontario will start testing symptomatic and asymptomatic frontline healthcare workers this weekend.

The province also plans to do a second round of testing in long-term care homes.

His comments come as Ontario's COVID-19 testing levels lag well below its capacity for a fifth straight day.

Ford also says he's eyeing a provincial expansion of a mobile spot testing model one local health unit announced today.

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit says it will start random spot testing in the community with the help of local paramedics, including drive-thru and trailer-based testing at different locations.

In Ottawa, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches says, "Currently discussions are underway about in what situation it makes sense to test people who are asymptomatic. We currently test people who are asymptomatic in sitiuations of outbreaks in congregate care settings. Ottawa's testing capacity has grown significantly since the declaration of the virus in Canada, but we still do not have the capacity to test everyone in Ottawa."

Ottawa Public Health is still encouraging anyone with even mild COVID-19 symptoms to get tested at either the Brewer Arena assessement centre or one of the COVID-19 care clinics.

The number of daily tests reported today was 11,276 — well below the province's capacity of over 21,000 — as testing levels dropped sharply once a blitz of nearly all long-term care residents and staff was completed last weekend.

Ford also says that Ontario will be rolling out an advertising campaign encouraging people to get tested, particularly in areas with higher concentrations of COVID-19 cases.

Dr. Wajid Ahmed, the medical officer of health with the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, announced a plan Friday to ramp up testing in the community where there are currently more than 840 cases of the virus.

Ahmed said he is working on a plan to ensure tests can be accessed at local doctor's offices and will begin random spot testing in the community with the help of local paramedics.

"We will be offering a combination of a drive-thru testing and a trailer-based testing at different locations across Windsor and Essex to make it truly random, and have a true sense of community spread," he said.

"The plan is to pick a spot in the community where we can find many people outdoors, and offer spot testing after collecting baseline information. You do not have to have any symptoms to get tested in that random testing."

Ahmed said people being tested will need to have their health card and another form of identification to ensure the health unit can reach out if a person tests positive.

He expects the random testing to begin next week.

Ford had mused about using mobile testing vans, doing increased testing by postal code, and targeting groups of people such as truck drivers, taxi drivers, front-line health-care staff, automotive workers and those in food manufacturing facilities, as well as child-care and school staff once those facilities reopen.

The premier said he wants as many members of the public as possible to be tested, including people without symptoms, though he also acknowledged that what he wants and what actually happens may differ.

Ontario reported 441 new cases Friday, and 28 more deaths. That brings the provincial total to 24,628, which is an increase of 1.8 per cent over the previous day's total.

Ontario's growth rate in cases has steadily hovered between 1.5 and 1.9 per cent for 12 of the past 13 days.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. David Williams has said the numbers are in a plateau, and called it disappointing.

Ontario's total includes 2,021 deaths and 18,767 cases that have been resolved.


Shawn Jeffords and Allison Jones, The Canadian Press

With files from Mike Vlasveld,


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