Coronavirus Canada updates: Doug Ford starts to deliver on promise with record-high testing in Ontario

Coronavirus: Doug Ford says Ontario could enter COVID-19 reopening plan before June 14
Coronavirus: Doug Ford says Ontario could enter COVID-19 reopening plan before June 14

Ontario’s Ministry of Health reported 323 new cases of COVID-19, after completing a record-high 20,640 tests in its latest 24-hour stretch.

It’s the closest the province has come to hitting its max-capacity of 21,000 tests in a day, but it’s the third straight occasion that health officials have surpassed their goal of 16,000. The 323 cases out of 20,640 also led to a positive test rate of 1.56 per cent, the lowest Ontario has recorded since March 17, when 963 people were tested and 12 cases were identified.

Ontario’s testing outputs have come under fire in recent weeks, but they’ve recently improved as Premier Doug Ford expanded the province’s scope. On May 20, when Ontario was in the third day of a 10-day stretch of not hitting its testing goal, Ford made a promise.

“We’re going to ramp up the testing like this province has never seen. Another three, four weeks, we’re going to do a lot of testing, I can stand here and promise you that, I’m going to be all over this testing,” said Ford, noting that he was “shocked” by the outputs.

In an effort to increase testing, Ford released a new plan Friday that aligns with what he said last week. Anyone who is concerned they may have COVID-19 won’t be refused a test at any of the province’s 131 assessment centres. Ontario will also have “targeted campaigns” aimed at testing employees in key, high-risk sectors such as agri-food, auto and retail industries.

Last weekend, health officials started to test both symptomatic and asymptomatic frontline health-care workers, as well as completed a second round of testing in long-term care homes. Chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, said earlier in the pandemic that Ontario doesn’t have a system in place over the weekend to move some of its tests to labs, therefore it’s expected to see an increase later into the week.

Over the past month, the province has seen its testing outputs fluctuate. Between April 28-May 7, Ontario had a three-day stretch (May 1-3) where it hit its goal of 16,000 tests each time, but failed to meet that mark on the days before and after.

Between May 8-17, the province went through a 10-day stretch where it hit its goal on seven different occasions. In the following 10-day stretch (May 18-27), it failed to meet it each time.

The province has now hit its testing goal for three straight days, but Ford and health officials have yet to prove they can do it consistently. They’ve said on multiple occasions that increased testing is crucial in understanding the scope of the virus’ impact on the province, and that without it they won’t be able to make follow-up decisions for how to further reopen the economy.

Along with the latest 323 patients, the Ministry of Health reported 17 fatalities, the fewest since May 19. The update increases Ontario’s death toll to 2,247. Of its total cases, there are 21,353 people who have recovered from the respiratory virus, an increase of 370 since Friday’s update. Of its 3,933 active cases, 1,964 of them are located in the City of Toronto’s public health unit.

Across the province, there are 801 people in hospital (down by 25), which includes 121 in intensive care (down by eight) and 84 who require a ventilator (down by 16).

According to the Ministry of Long-Term Health, there are 114 outbreaks around the province, down by nine. Among those facilities, there are 1,636 residents who have passed away (an increase of 11), while 1,304 people remain currently infected (down by 172). In addition, there are 1,048 active cases among staff members (down by 65), while seven have died (an increase of one).

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