SEPTEMBER 24, 2020 / INQUINTE.CA STAFF
A major investment announced by the Ontario government on Thursday.
$1.07 billion will go towards expanding testing and contact tracing of the coronavirus.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the province can respond quickly to any outbreaks by ramping the daily testing capacity to fifty thousand.
An additional immediate investment of $30 million is going towards preventing and manage outbreaks in priority sectors — long-term care homes, retirement homes and schools.
Building on these efforts, Ontario will strengthen public health measures and continue to expand testing and case and contact management through the following:
* More Testing Locations: Working with Ontario Health, local public health units and hospitals, Ontario will expand testing locations based on local needs to provide Ontarians with more access to testing and reduce testing wait times. This will include adding more testing locations such as primary care offices, at-home testing for certain home and community care clients, and starting on Friday, September 25, 2020, in participating pharmacies.
* More Testing Options: Ontario will ensure health professionals can provide more people with timely and convenient tests by expanding the methods for COVID-19 testing. Less invasive collection methods, such as throat, nasal swabbing and saliva collection will now be used in addition to nasopharyngeal swabs to test for COVID-19. Starting this week, three Ontario hospitals are offering saliva collection, with more assessment centres offering this option in the coming weeks. The province continues to review innovative technologies, such as rapid and point of care tests, to ensure Ontarians have access to leading and faster testing options.
* More Testing Capacity: Ontario will continue to expand the capacity of the provincial lab network so more tests can be processed and testing targets can be achieved. This includes hiring more lab staff and professional staff and improving data quality through digitizing requisition forms and other automated features. As a first step, the province will increase testing capacity to conduct up to 50,000 daily tests.
* More Case and Contact Managers: Ontario will continue to add case and contact management staff to prevent the spread of the virus. There are currently more than 2,750 case and contact management staff active across all public health units tracing and managing COVID-19 cases, up from approximately 1,500 staff in the spring. An additional 500 Statistics Canada employees are being onboarded this month to assist with contact management and Ontario is hiring an additional 500 contact tracers. In total, there will be more than 3,750 case and contact management staff working to keep Ontarians safe.
* Better Health Behaviour Information: Ontario will conduct health behaviour surveillance to track adherence to public health measures across Ontario and to help understand how to better communicate the importance and benefit of continuing to follow public health measures.
To measure success in these efforts, Ontario will track progress against the following:
* Faster turnaround time for testing: 80 per cent of test results delivered within 48 hours.
* Maintain test positivity rate under three per cent;
* Ensure sufficient case management and contact tracing capacity to continue reaching 90 per cent of cases within 24 hours; and
* Compliance with public health measures (based on health behaviour surveillance data).
In support of these efforts, the province has also released new testing guidance to help focus public resources on where they are needed the most.
Ontario will continue to improve outbreak management through the following:
* more than $510 million provided through the Social Services Relief Fund to municipal Service Managers and Indigenous Program Administrators to protect vulnerable populations, including supporting physical distancing and enhanced infection control measures in congregate settings and isolation facilities;
* Emergency Management Ontario has developed and distributed an outbreak guidance toolkit to support each ministry’s outbreak management planning, ensuring strong sector responses; and
* stress-testing outbreak response protocols and structures through virtual simulation exercises that have been held across the province to address outbreaks in schools, universities and correctional facilities. Additional scenario planning exercises are focusing on Indigenous communities, long-term care homes and retirement homes.
As Ontario works to contain and prevent outbreaks, the province will measure success using the following criteria:
* rapid containment of outbreaks; and
* fewer outbreaks in congregate and other high-risk settings, including long-term care homes.