OTTAWA — Two months after the City of Ottawa scrambled to expand its COVID-19 testing options to deal with a massive spike in demand, it is now set to cut back on hours at testing sites this weekend because far fewer people are showing up for swabs.
The decline mirrors what is happening in much of the rest of the country, with average daily testing numbers down more than 25 per cent compared to a month ago, even as positive cases soar.
On Oct. 15, the Public Health Agency of Canada reported an average of 77,000 COVID-19 tests had been completed each day over the previous week, the highest it had ever been. That fell to an average daily count of 61,000 a week ago, and to below 55,000 this week.
In mid-October, Canada had about 2,300 new cases of COVID-19 diagnosed each day. This week, that number grew to above 4,000.
Ontario, which on Thursday recorded its fifth record case total in the last six days, was aiming to have 68,000 tests daily by the middle of November. It hasn’t hit 40,000 tests once in those six days, and twice dropped below 30,000 tests per day.
The province averaged 38,273 tests per day in October, and this month so far the daily average is 33,870.
British Columbia averaged 9,369 tests last month. So far in November the average daily test count is 9,101..
In many provinces the testing numbers bounce around dramatically. In Quebec, the province tested 30,919 people on Nov. 5. Three days later, the number dropped below 19,000. By Nov. 10, it was back up over 30,000. B.C.’s testing counts in November range from fewer than 5,000 a day to more than 12,000.
In a written statement, the Public Health Agency of Canada said the federal government is working with provinces to increase testing capacity but said the focus shouldn’t be on the number of tests, but how those tests are being used.
“We need to test smartly and test the right people at the right time,” the written statement from officials said.
Dr. Howard Njoo, the deputy chief public health officer, said a week ago that most provinces changed criteria this fall to focus testing mostly on people with symptoms, high-risk settings like hospitals and long-term care homes, and people with known exposures to someone with COVID-19.
“I think people are now recognizing that the best approach could or should be more focused that it may not be the best use of resources and it may actually sort of slow down the testing for those who actually need it,” he said Nov. 6.
Ontario’s testing system was unruly in September, leading the province to massively expand hours and locations of testing sites, create an appointment process, and change the criteria so people without symptoms didn’t clog the lines.
In Ottawa, the testing task force that in September was begging people not to get tested unless they had symptoms began last week to beg people to go get tests. Today, the weekend hours at one of the city’s main testing sites are being cut from 11 hours a day to eight because so many appointments were going unfilled.
Ottawa public health chief Dr. Vera Etches said weekends have become particularly slow. She said the overall numbers have come back a bit from earlier in November and didn’t express alarm that not enough people are being tested, saying it could be due to Ottawa’s declining infection rate.
Ottawa has mostly bucked Ontario’s trend of rising cases, with the infection rate falling from 70 per 100,000 people in mid-October to 38 this week. Toronto’s grew from 57 to almost 100 cases per 100,000 people over that time.
“You know, if the virus level is dropping, there may be more people without symptoms or fewer people with symptoms presenting to be tested,” Etches said.
But she said she still wants people to know if they have symptoms, even very mild ones, getting a test is the responsible thing to do because “we have to detect as much COVID as possible.”
“And so it is one of the things we’re watching and we continue to work with our partners that run the testing system to try to explore more,” she said.
“Why are people coming? Why are they not coming? You know, these are these are things that’s worth exploring for sure.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 13, 2020.
Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press
Watch live: Ontario Premier Doug Ford makes an announcement – CTV Toronto
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he’s still pushing to “knock down” the 14-day quarantine for travellers returning into Canada from overseas.
Ford made the comment on Wednesday afternoon after being asked whether border restrictions between Canada and the United States should be tightened given the escalating number of COVID-19 cases in both countries.
In response to the question, Ford said he still pushing to replace the quarantine with a rapid COVID-19 testing program, similar to what Alberta implemented earlier this year.
Under the plan, international travellers receive a COVID-19 test upon entering Canada before going into quarantine. If the test comes back negative, those travellers are allowed to leave quarantine but will have to take another test six or seven days after their initial arrival.
“We’re working with the federal government right now at Toronto Pearson to reduce the downtime once you come back,” Ford said. “You have to quarantine for 14-days, we want to knock that down.”
“I’m really pushing it because if you can land and you can get tested right away and then you get tested, I think it’s five to seven days later, and they both come out negative, you should be able to go on your way.”
Ford said he is expecting an answer later Wednesday afternoon on the status of the pilot project.
Ford went on to say that he believes the federal government needs to “step it up” when it comes to travellers returning in to Canada and at the very least take people’s temperatures.
“Don’t just let them walk off and hop in a taxi and away they go,” Ford said.
He also said he believes that some people are not adhering the quarantine rules when arriving back in Canada.
Feds plan to provide Canadians with tools to fight coronavirus vaccine misinformation – Global News
Speaking to reporters at the 2020 Canadian Immunization Conference on Wednesday, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said the webinars will include a broad range of topics, including Health Canada regulatory perspectives, the different types of vaccines that will be available to Canadians, how to run immunization clinics as well as guidance for use from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.
“Because of the social media and its Internet age, we’ve got even more of a challenge on our hands than anyone else in tackling pandemics of the past,” said Tam, adding that it was important Canadians understood how vaccines are developed.
“The regulatory process is rigorous and (the federal government) would only provide vaccines that have gone through safety evaluations and efficacy evaluations.”
An Ipsos poll conducted exclusively for Global News found a majority of Canadians surveyed, 59 per cent, said they would still support for mandatory COVID-19 vaccines — but more than 70 per cent said they would feel nervous taking a vaccine that went through such quick development.
Tam said the webinars will seek to dispel some of those fears, and explain how scientists were able to compress years worth of vaccine research into what she described as an “incredible global collaboration that has resulted in vaccines being available essentially within the year of the start of a pandemic.”
U.K. becomes first country to approve Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine
The top health official did not explicitly say when the webinars would be rolling out, but said to “expect the first webinars to be delivered very shortly.”
Tam’s announcement comes as Health Canada reviews multiple vaccine candidates, including Pfizer and BioNtech’s, which became the world’s first vaccine to receive approval after it was authorized by British health officials earlier on Wednesday.
The federal government has so far secured a minimum of 20 million doses from Pfizer and BioNtech, with the option to secure millions more if they’re approved.
According to Tam, Canadians can expect to see the first shipments of the vaccine roll out early next year, adding that front-line workers, high-risk groups like seniors and those in more isolated Indigenous communities will be considered for prioritization.
“As we roll out a vaccine, we have to take into account who is most at risk — at risk of exposure of severe outcomes and ensuring that these populations have priority access,” she said.
“Vaccine developers in phase three clinical trials are including some of these key populations.”
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Are you worried that people in other countries might get a COVID-19 vaccine first? – Castanet.net
A new poll suggests most Canadians aren’t currently worried that people in other countries might get a COVID-19 vaccine first.
Thirty-seven per cent of respondents to a survey conducted by Léger and the Association for Canadian Studies say they are very concerned that Canada may not receive doses of a new COVID vaccine as early as the United States.
“That’s not necessarily low, but I think most pundits would have expected this number to be much higher,” said Léger executive vice-president Christian Bourque.
Meanwhile, 48 per cent say they are not concerned about getting a vaccine first and 10 per cent say they don’t care at all or are not planning to get vaccinated anyway.
Getting a vaccine before other countries doesn’t seem to be “a major (issue for the Liberal government), which is contrary to what we might have thought … when the prime minister actually said that we would not be the first ones to get doses,” Bourque said.
The amount of concern regarding getting a COVID-19 vaccine first varies along party lines, with 45 per cent of self-identified Conservative supporters saying they are very concerned that Canada may not receive doses of a new COVID vaccine at the same time as other countries. Only 38 per cent of Liberal supporters say they are concerned.
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