Province announces expanded COVID-19 testing, Premier considering regional reopening approach
Tim Brody - Editor
As the Government of Ontario announced it was expanding who can get tested for COVID-19, Premier Doug Ford stated he is now considering a regional approach to reopening the province’s economy.
The provincial government informed on May 29 that asymptomatic individuals may now be tested for COVID-19.
“If you have COVID-19 symptoms, if you’re worried you’ve been in contact with someone with COVID-19, if you or your family are worried about exposure, in short, if you feel you need a test, please, please, go get a test. You will not be turned away. We have 129 assessment centres open to everyone across the province, ready to serve the people,” Ford stated.
One of those assessment centre’s has been set up outside Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre.
The Health Centre informed it is by appointment only, sharing, “Anyone who has symptoms or is concerned that they may have or been exposed to COVID-19 can call 737-5880 to book an appointment.”
The Health Centre also shared, “Prior to this announcement, here at SLMHC we have ensured our staff, patients and residents have access to testing, whether they are symptomatic, asymptomatic or any concerns of COVID-19. We will continue to support the vulnerable populations with access to testing in line with Ontario Health recommendations.”
SLMHC has been conducting COVID-19 testing in its laboratory, “SLMHC was able to start doing this on-site testing in mid-April Due to a limited number of cartridges, we prioritize on-site testing on a case-by-case basis, with consideration for those working directly in providing essential services (not limited to health care services) and those who have been identified as needing quicker results. For the most part, tests are still sent to the Public Health lab and results are back within 2-5 days.”
The Health Centre clarified, “As for geographical area for processing tests, we are supporting Sioux Lookout as well as all of our catchment communities with rapid testing in line with Ontario Health prioritization as well as those requiring access to emergency care that requires rapid results.”
In announcing expanded COVID-19 testing, Ford also stated, “I am now comfortable with asking our officials to look at a regional approach for staged reopening. This will be one option we consider as we move into Stage 2. This is one option that we’re putting on the table. And we’re only able to do this now because we’re getting our testing to where we need it. So the health officials are looking, right now, at what regional model could look like.”
The Province of Ontario officially entered Stage 1 of reopening its economy on May 19.
Sioux Lookout Mayor Doug Lawrance stated in response to the news of a possible regional reopening strategy, “The Municipality looks to our public health agency, the Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) for guidance and direction related to the coronavirus pandemic. In my discussions with the Acting Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Ian Gemmill, it is clear that the NWHU has always supported the government’s approach to the relaxation of restrictions. If the relaxation of restrictions is to be changed to a regional approach, and the northwest is one of those areas, we are assured that the Health Unit will do their part to monitor what the effects on cases would be, so that the NWHU can help to determine the effect that the measures have on the incidence of the disease in the Northwest, on any transmission in the community, and provide that feedback to the Provincial Government. Dr. Gemmill has said that we are lucky in the Northwest, in that we have few cases and no evidence of community transmission at this time, so the risk is low in our area, and it may be a good location to cautiously test out a regional approach. It seems clear from the Premier's comments that the Provincial Government is considering a regional approach to lifting restrictions and as a Municipality we will continue to take direction from the Northwestern Health Unit and public health officials on this matter.”