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Testing guidelines expanded

Posted: April 18, 2020

(April 17, 2020)

By: Antonella Artuso, Ottawa Sun (Print Edition)

Ontario public health officials confirmed 514 new COVID-19 cases and 38 more related deaths Thursday as the government announced more aggressive testing guidelines.

The province now has 8,961 cases and 423 deaths in total.

An additional six long-term care facilities reported outbreaks, bringing the total to 104, with 933 cases among residents and 530 cases in staff.

The data, which is based on the previous afternoon’s information from local public health units, shows 163 deaths at long-term care homes.

Ontario chief medical officer of health Dr. David Williams said new cases in long-term care settings now outnumber those in the general community.

At Eatonville Care Centre in Toronto, where staff and residents are dealing with a devastating outbreak, the death toll rose to 31 on Thursday. The number of confirmed positive cases also jumped to 79 residents and there are now 80 test results pending.

Premier Doug Ford said the coronavirus preys on the most vulnerable.

“I know that each and every family that has lost a loved one is grieving right now. I grieve with you,” Ford said Thursday. “I know that people are worried about their next paycheque and I worry with you.”

Ontario completed 9,001 tests Wednesday, which met Ford’s interim goal of more testing.

Public health officials announced expanded testing guidelines Thursday including children and the elderly who may show symptoms that have not typically been linked to COVID-19.

The guidelines cover staff and residents of homeless shelters, daycare for essential workers, group homes and prisons.

There is also stepped-up testing for people who live in the same household with health-care workers and first responders.

Cross-border and essential workers, as well as vulnerable patients such as those undergoing chemotherapy, are also to be tested more vigorously.

Opposition parties at Queen’s Park have called on the Ford government to increase testing, a tactic that has been used by many jurisdictions that have seen success at restraining the spread of COVID-19.

The Ontario Health Coalition said the new testing guidelines fall far short of what’s needed to protect those living and working in long-term care.

Everyone going into or living in long-term care must be tested for COVID-19, an OHC statement released Thursday says.

“Premier Doug Ford said mid-week last week that everyone should be tested,” the statement says. “Yet, the directive and guidance issued by the government only slightly widened the list of symptoms that long-term care residents and staff need to demonstrate in order to be tested.”

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