Ontario health officials recommend testing asymptomatic patients in priority groups

Apr 9 2020, 12:59 pm

Ontario public health officials updated COVID-19 testing guidelines, asking for frontline workers, long-term care residents, and other vulnerable populations, to be tested even if they’re not showing symptoms of the virus.

On Wednesday, the province released a document asking for newly admitted or re-admitted residents to long-term care homes to be tested in the first 14 days of admission to the facility, under the direction of a clinician.

Patients who are transferring from hospitals to long-term care facilities should be tested prior to the transfer and even if they do not show symptoms, they should remain under a 14-day self-isolation period.

If there is a symptomatic patient in an institutional setting like a long-term care home, retirement home, shelter, prison, or other communal living situation, the province recommends that asymptomatic residents living in the same room should be tested immediately.

With 69 outbreaks confirmed in long-term care homes across the province, the decision to be more diligent with testing in these vulnerable families is a top priority for the province.

Now, if there is an outbreak at a facility, all asymptomatic residents should be tested including: residents living in adjacent rooms, all staff working on the unit, essential visitors that attend the unit, and other contacts deemed appropriate for testing by local public health.

But local public health can also use their expertise to determine whether these asymptomatic individuals need to be tested.

Also, healthcare workers, caregivers, care providers, and first responders should be tested if they show any COVID-19 symptoms, including atypical symptoms like fatigue, delirium, exacerbate of chronic conditions, and headaches — the same guidelines apply for residents in remote or Indigenous communities.

The province also states that if medical supplies are low, symptomatic healthcare workers, residents at long-term care homes, hospitalized patients, first responders, travellers, and remote communities should be prioritized for testing.

As of April 9, Ontario has 5,759 total cases with 200 reported deaths.

On Thursday, Region of Peel confirmed the first healthcare worker death, who likely contracted the virus from community spread.

The need for more testing has become apparent as cases continue to increase.

On Wednesday, Premier Doug Ford vowed to ramp up testing to 13,000 a day starting April 9.

He called the number of current testing of 2,000 to 3,000 per day, “absolutely unacceptable.”

“My patience has run thin. We have the testing capabilities now to test 13,000 people a day. We need to start testing 13,000 people,” Ford said during his daily press conference. “The days are done of 2,000 or 3,000 tests being done.”

Ford said he spoke with the Command Table, which is working on coronavirus responses, asking them to increase testing, especially with long-term care facilities, frontline workers, healthcare workers and other essential workers — like policemen and firefighters.