Everyone now eligible for COVID-19 testing

Above, Dr. Paul Roumeliotis delivers his daily media briefing, including information on the expansion of COVID-19 tests to anyone wanting one, confirmation that Maxville Manor does have a confirmed positive case of COVID-19 (not a “false positive”) and a rise of one in the number of deaths at Pinecrest Nursing Home to 11.

CORNWALL — In line with the Premier Doug Ford’s announcement yesterday, you no longer need symptoms to be tested for COVID-19 in the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) coverage area.

It’s the latest evolution in the province’s testing regime for the virus. Early in the pandemic, only those with symptoms and a history of recent travel were eligible, later expanded to essential workers with symptoms, and last week expanded further to everyone with symptoms of the ailment. Now, the test is open to anyone wanting one, including the symptom-free, which the Medical Officer of Health for Eastern Ontario says “will help public health better understand the situation in communities across the region, and in particular the proportion of people who have asymptomatic infection.”

“We want to now test others because, moving forward, we want to get a sense of what the rate of asymptomatic carriers are,” said Dr. Paul Roumeliotis during today’s media briefing, likening the change to random testing of the general population. Three of six assessment centres in the EOU region don’t even require an appointment. The doctor added the EOHU will release guidelines on the number of times an individual may seek a test, adding, “I don’t want people to come every day.”

The test involves taking a sample, with a swab, through either the back of the nose or the back of the throat, which is sent away to a lab for a result. The opening up of testing comes as the premier has expressed recent frustration that Ontario hasn’t been using its full testing capacity to hit a 16,000-per-day goal.

Dr. Roumeliotis reminds the public a negative test is just a snapshot in time and doesn’t indicate immunity. The individual can still be exposed to the virus later on. “The key is therefore to monitor your health regularly and get tested again if you notice the onset of any symptoms or think you’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19,” he explained. Nor does the current test indicate whether one had the infection earlier and has since gotten better, he said, noting a new blood test is required for that.

The doctor also described as an “outrage” some of the large public gatherings that occurred in Toronto parks on the weekend. “I don’t want what happened in Toronto to happen in our area. I’m actually very worried … please — I know I’ve had some complaints as well about some of our beaches being overcrowded — please, do it in a way that you can physically distance and keep those numbers down.

Noting the curve is flattened in the EOHU region, Dr. Roumeliotis worries about “an onslaught of cases in our area” undoing the progress here. “The more the virus is around spreading in our community, the more the vulnerable will get it,” he said, highlighting 11 deaths at Pinecrest Nursing Home in Plantagenet, which is up by one after a resident died on the weekend.

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