Health officials move quickly to expand COVID-19 testing hours
Cases continue to surge in Ottawa with 60 new cases of COVID-19, 1 more death
Public health officials in Ottawa are moving quickly to extend hours at local COVID-19 testing centres after the current surge in new cases saw residents turn out in droves, leading to long lines and frustrating waits for many.
Starting today, the Brewer Arena assessment centre will be staffed from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week, with public access from 8:45 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. The testing site in Old Ottawa South was previously open from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., according to the hours posted on the Ottawa Public Health (OPH) website.
Seeing the long lines at the testing centres has been frustrating for many of us, myself included.- Mayor Jim Watson
"Seeing the long lines at the testing centres has been frustrating for many of us, myself included," Watson told councillors at a virtual technical briefing Wednesday. "We understand this can be discouraging, particularly if you're bringing children when you get tested."
Watson said an online booking system already in use at the drive-thru testing site at Coventry Road will be expanded to other sites so that people can arrive at a pre-scheduled time and avoid waiting in line for hours.
"We'll have that up and running I'm told in the next several days," Watson said.
Asymptomatic people clogging system
Watson added that a new testing site is coming to the city's east end once a location is chosen from a short list of three potential facilities. Another site will open downtown in the near future, Watson said, but he didn't provide any details about where or when.
On Tuesday, public health officials said the long lines are the result of a sudden surge in parents bringing their school-age children to get tested.
According to OPH guidelines, any child experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 must stay home from school and self-isolate along with other family members until they get a negative test result.
But officials blamed the backlog on too many asymptomatic people going for testing.
On Wednesday, Ottawa's associate medical officer of health, Dr. Brent Moloughney said that could discourage people who actually need to be tested from turning up only to face long waits.
Ontario to further limit social gatherings in Ottawa
Meanwhile, Ontario appears poised to scale back the size of social gatherings allowed in certain regions during the pandemic as the surge in new cases in Ottawa continues.
Ottawa Public Health (OPH) reported 60 new cases and one additional death Wednesday. Twenty cases were marked resolved, raising the city's active case count by 39.
Ottawa has now had a total of 3,447 confirmed cases: 401 active, 2,773 resolved and 273 people whose deaths have been linked to the respiratory illness.
There have been 219 newly confirmed cases this week alone, and at least one death for the last three days.
Ottawa's rolling five-day average of newly confirmed cases now sits at nearly 50 per day, nearing the peak of 52.6 seen on April 29.
There are currently 11 patients in hospital in Ottawa, including one in intensive care.
Wednesday's update listed new cases among all age groups, with slightly more than half below the age of 40.
The city's worst current COVID-19 outbreak, at the West End Villa long-term care home, has now claimed the lives of six residents. Fifty-three people at the home have now tested positive, most of them residents.
There has been at least one case of COVID-19 in a student or staff member at 12 Ottawa schools, but OPH has not declared an outbreak in any of them. An outbreak has been declared at Fellowes High School in Pembroke, Ont.
Rules, recommendations changing
Ontario Premier Doug Ford's office confirmed Wednesday social gathering limits will be lowered in some areas of the province, with more details expected soon.
Ottawa health officials have already advised residents to limit the number of people with whom they have close contact.
With demand for testing in Ottawa at a record high, officials have changed their advice and are now asking only people with COVID-19 symptoms or a referral to get tested,
- Keep social circles tight, Etches pleads amid surging COVID-19 numbers
- People who don't need a COVID-19 test clogging Ottawa's system
- A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the new operating hours for the Brewer Arena assessment centre based on information from Mayor Jim Watston. The story has been updated with the correct hours.Sep 16, 2020 4:51 PM ET