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Dead last in the COVID-19 test race; Ontario Health Coalition raises questions about COVID-19 test numbers

Posted: April 18, 2020

(April 17, 2020)

By: Michael Thomas, torontocaribbean.com

“How do you just give a link on testing?”  Natalie Mehra (Executive Director, Ontario Health Coalition)

Why are so few Ontarians being tested and tracked for COVID-19? This is a question recently raised by the Ontario Health Coalition to the powers that be here in this province.

According to a report from Global News, if anyone were to do the number counts from the Northwest Territories right down to New Brunswick; Ontario has the lowest testing rate per 100,000 persons.

Toronto Caribbean Newspaper spoke with Natalie Mehra, Executive Director for Ontario Health Coalition about the situation. “Every other large province in the country has ramped up their testing volumes much faster than we have, and what that looks like to us, is that Ontario has made it too restrictive to get tested, therefore lots of people with symptoms just can not get tested at all.”

Her question to the Ford government is, “How do you just give a link on testing, or what is going on? There is a shortage of real agents for the testing, but that is worldwide. Besides, all the other provinces have enough free agents to ramp up the testing, so what’s going on in Ontario?”

“When this started a few weeks ago,” she continued, “We looked at the Ontario government website, and there was no list of assessment centers, so we set out to create our own list. We phoned all the public health units, but we could not get through. We also phoned all the hospitals. Then we started to create a list, and have kept that list up to date, but some places did not want the address of their location center made public.”

“Other places said, ‘Well we have an assessment center, but no walk-ins. Walk-ins are prohibited.’ You have to call public health and telehealth even to just get a test.

Now, there is a pre-screening. We have heard stories from people about the qualifying process, meaning you must have: a fever, a worsening cough and not be able to hold your breath, traveled in the last 14 days, or have been exposed to someone who has tested positive.”

Just as recent as April 3rd, 2020, the Ford government informed the public of the mass death toll and infections that are on the horizon and said this could hit Ontario as early as the end of April. As of April 3rd, there are a recorded 67 deaths in Ontario and counting. Health officials are pleading with some members of the public to stay home and practice social distancing, which includes staying away from parks and parking lots and not gathering anywhere in groups. As one health official puts it, “How this unfolds is in the hands of all of us.”

The expert’s projection is as follows, do nothing and lose 100,000 people in Ontario throughout this horror, which they are saying could last two years or 18 months. If we all do what we can, the result will be much better for the province and this still means a death toll between 3,000 and 15,000 people.

Mehra however, would like the government of Ontario to do more and move faster. She told Toronto Caribbean Newspaper “I think people are showing their compassion, but our policymakers need to show theirs also. People are doing an unbelievable job, to move quickly and adapt to the changing circumstances, but they need more support. They need equipment. They can’t do that by themselves. The government has to do that, and it has to move faster than it’s been moving.”

The public,” she said, “Needs more concrete measures that will keep people safe, and that means more of a shutdown, more testing, more tracking, the people need more rent support, and employment support. Now is the time for us to live up to what we believe our society is. A compassionate one; one that believes in equity. We are called upon to show that now, so let’s do it.”

Here are the testing numbers according to provinces, as of Friday, April 9th, 2020

  • Northwest Territories 1819 ( COVID-19 TESTS/Rate per 100,000)
  • Yukon 1468 ( COVID-19 TESTS/Rate per 100,000)
  • Alberta 1020 ( COVID-19 TESTS/Rate per 100,000)
  • Saskatchewan  769 ( COVID-19 TESTS/Rate per 100,000)
  • British Columbia  717 ( COVID-19 TESTS/Rate per 100,000)
  • Quebec 611 ( COVID-19 TESTS/Rate per 100,000)
  • Manitoba 519 ( COVID-19 TESTS/Rate per 100,000)
  • Nova Scotia 496 ( COVID-19 TESTS/Rate per 100,000)
  • Newfoundland and Labrador 404 ( COVID-19 TESTS/Rate per 100,000)
  • Prince Edward Island 393 ( COVID-19 TESTS/Rate per 100,000)
  • New Brunswick 376( COVID-19 TESTS/Rate per 100,000)
  • Ontario 334 ( COVID-19 TESTS/Rate per 100,000)

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