Coronavirus: Ontario government expands guidelines for priority COVID-19 testing

TORONTO — Ontario expanded its priority COVID-19 testing Thursday to include essential workers, residents and staff of homeless shelters and group homes, and people living with health-care workers.

The new guidelines will help Ontario take full advantage of the testing capacity it has built, and will help the province more effectively identify and contain cases among vulnerable populations, said a spokeswoman for Health Minister Christine Elliott.

Premier Doug Ford has expressed frustration that Ontario has been processing a daily number of tests well below its capacity, which is now up to 16,000.

On Thursday, the province reported completing 9,001 tests during the previous day, surpassing a target the health minister set last week after the premier said his patience had worn thin.

The new guidelines say people living and working in “congregate” settings such as homeless shelters, correctional facilities and group homes should be tested as soon as possible if they have symptoms.

Symptoms are now defined as fever, pneumonia, “any new or worsening symptom” such as cough or shortness of breath, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, or nasal congestion, hoarse voice, difficulty swallowing, new smell or taste disorders, nausea, vomiting, diahrea, or abdominal pain.

The number of people in hospital with COVID-19 grew slightly to 807, and while the number of people on ventilators also grew, there are fewer people in intensive care.

There have been 104 outbreaks reported in long-term care homes, with cases in 933 residents and 530 staff members. At least 163 residents have died.

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