Premier Doug Ford is touting Ontario’s “robust” testing record, which has now surpassed four million tests, just days after eliminating walk-in testing in favour of a by-appointment system.
“We have eliminated the long lineups,” Ford said at a news conference Tuesday, saying the province cleared its testing backlog by 40 per cent by pausing appointments for a day and limiting tests for asymptomatic people.
The premier added that those who need an appointment will get one — that’s despite reports of extremely long wait times for booking a test in some areas as the province shifts from physical lines to virtual ones.
Ford also responded to questions about confusion around social gathering rules ahead of the Thanksgiving long weekend.
“I’ll be very frank, I’m hearing the total opposite,” he said when asked about what some see as mixed messaging. “We’re flattening the curve and we’re putting the protocols in.”
Ontario is currently seeing a seven-day average of 611 cases per day, up sharply from a seven-day average of fewer than 100 cases per day at the start of August.
Ford also confirmed Tuesday that he’d seen data showing certain low-income neighbourhoods in Toronto are facing a percent positivity rate of 10 per cent, including in his own riding. The city is currently averaging a positivity rate of under three per cent.
“That is very concerning … Those are neighbourhoods and areas that we already knew were at increased risk,” said Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe. Yaffe added there is a need not only for increased targeted messaging and access to testing in those areas, but also for additional case follow-up.
The premier also told reporters his family will limit its Thanksgiving gathering to 10 people, advising people to “hang off on the hugging and kissing.”
Pressed to clarify his comments, Ford emphasized gatherings should be limited to members of a person’s household. Dr. Yaffe underscored that message, saying gatherings should be limited to a single household as much as possible, with exceptions only for single-person households to join a larger one.
Still, asked who exactly will be attending his Thanksgiving dinner, Ford could not confirm whether family members who don’t live with him will be present and instead asked to follow up with CBC reporter Mike Crawley later on with details.