Ontario’s COVID-19 testing levels lagged well below its capacity for a fifth straight day Friday, as at least one local health unit looked to boost its numbers through random testing.
Premier Doug Ford said he has asked provincial health officials to deliver a plan for expanded testing next week, but in the meantime, the Windsor area is forging ahead with a new strategy that includes drive-thru spot testing.
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.
Ford has expressed frustration on several occasions with low testing levels, blaming some local health officials at one point.
The number of daily tests reported Friday was 11,276 — up from 10,506 the previous day, but still short of the province’s capacity of over 21,000.
The province 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