The Ontario government will now require workers at long-term care homes in COVID-19 hot spots to get tested for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus on a weekly basis.
Since May, workers at long-term care homes have been required to get tested for COVID-19 every two weeks but that guidance is now being updated for all homes that are located in communities in the orange, red and lockdown tiers of the province’s tiered framework for public health measures.
Starting next week all staff and support workers that provide “direct care” in those facilities will need to be tested every week. Staff at homes in green and yellow zones will only require a test every two weeks, as per the previous policy.
“By increasing testing at our long-term care homes we will better protect vulnerable residents as well as the staff who are working so hard to keep them safe,” Long-Term Care Minister Dr. Merrilee Fullerton said in making the announcement.
The expansion of surveillance testing in long-term care homes comes as the Progressive Conservative government announces that it has received 98,000 new Abott ID Now rapid tests, which are capable of producing on the spot results in less than 15 minutes.
Premier Doug Ford said that the tests will be delivered to the “areas of greatest need, such as hot spots and long-term care homes,” as well as some areas in northern Ontario “where testing turnaround times are a challenge.”
There are currently 96 active outbreaks at Ontario long-term care homes. Since the beginning of the pandemic in March, a total of 2,174 residents at long-term care homes have died after contracting COVID-19.
“It is critical we stop the leak in long-term care. 100 per cent testing, 100 per cent testing for every staff member, every single visitor that goes in there,” Ford said Wednesday. “No excues anymore. It is not coming in through the ceiling, it is not coming in through the walls, it is coming in through the people visitng and the health workers. And by the way this is not a knock against health workers. They are heroes. But if we don’t lock this down 100 per cent it is just going to continue. If you have a leak in the ship, you plug the leak 100 per cent.”