Doug Ford never said 70 to 80 percent of ‘positive cases’ are asymptomatic, premier’s office clarifies

Premier Doug Ford during a Sept. 24 media conference. YouTube

Untested individuals seeking tests at St. Michael’s Hospital were mostly symptom-free and were NOT individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 

Nelson Zandbergen
Nation Valley News

TORONTO — Premier Doug Ford’s words are being misinterpreted on social media to suggest that most COVID-19 cases are asymptomatic. However, the Ontario premier was actually referring to the symptom-free status of the majority of those queuing up to be tested at St. Michael’s Hospital recently, the premier’s director of communications has confirmed for NVN.

“Yes, the premier meant to say a large majority of people getting tested at St. Michael’s Hospital were asymptomatic,” said Ivana Yelich in an email, clarifying a Sept. 24 live-streamed exchange between Ford and CityNews reporter Cynthia Mulligan.

An out-of-context snippet of that exchange is now being mistakenly touted online as evidence of some grand revelation about those who have tested positive for COVID-19.

In fact, the premier was specifically addressing the reporter’s question on an entirely different topic: recent policy changes curtailing the testing of asymptomatic individuals to make way for larger numbers of people arriving at assessment centres with symptoms. The opening for confusion revolves around the premier’s generic use of the word “cases” when he describes how 70 to 80 percent of test-seekers at the Toronto-based hospital’s assessment centre have been asymptomatic. He is not referring to “positive cases” of COVID-19 and does not use that word combination.

Ford also acknowledges Mulligan’s Sept. 24 tweet in his response from the podium, further confirming the context of the discussion.


See the exchange below.  

Assessment centres in Eastern Ontario have been bogged down as well amid a surge of parents seeking tests for their children with symptoms since the start of the school year. The Eastern Ontario Health Unit was first to cut service to test-seekers without symptoms in order to free up capacity, a move replicated by the province several days later. The vast majority of individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 during the pandemic here have had symptoms (were not asymptomatic), Eastern Ontario Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis has said.

Below, in this section of his Sept. 17 media update, Eastern Ontario Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis explains the rationale behind eliminating tests for asymptomatic individuals at the region’s official testing centres — while noting that pharmacies are expected to take on that role in the near future. The doctor acknowledges that asymptomatic individuals — although they represented the vast majority of people seeking tests over the summer — have rarely tested positive at Eastern Ontario’s testing centres. To the contrary, the vast majority of positive tests to date have involved individuals with symptoms, indicating low prevalence of the virus among asymptomatic people in Eastern Ontario, the doctor tells NVN.
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