Testing in Ottawa now open to anyone with COVID-19 symptoms

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) now says anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 can and should get tested for the respiratory illness.

Medical officer of health advises public to wear masks to help reduce spread

A health-care worker sits at a registration table during a media tour of the COVID-19 Assessment Centre at Brewer Arena in Ottawa on Friday, March 13, 2020. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) now says anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 can and should get tested for the respiratory illness.

Previously, only groups including essential workers or those with existing health conditions were eligible for testing. OPH later expanded testing criteria to include those over 60 with symptoms.

"This week we're moving further," medical officer of health  Vera Etches told councillors Wednesday morning. "People who have a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, will be assessed."

Now, anyone experiencing symptoms can get tested at one of the city's three sites: Brewer Arena in Old Ottawa South, 595 Moodie Dr. and 1485 Heron Rd., where more than 17,500 residents have already been tested.

The sites are open from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. weekdays. The Brewer Arena site is also open weekends. You don't need an appointment.

A respiratory illness testing clinic opened in a former school at 1485 Heron Rd. in Ottawa on April 9, 2020. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Symptoms of COVID-19 range from the common (cough, fever, sore throat or sneezing) to the less common (headaches, abdominal pain, nausea, loss of taste or smell).

Anyone in serious medical trouble should call 911 or go to an emergency room.

On Wednesday, OPH reported 15 new cases and four new deaths from COVID-19. So far during the pandemic, 182 people have died from the virus in Ottawa, most in long-term care or retirement homes, while 1,707 people have tested positive. 

The vast majority of those positive cases, 1,245 people or 73 per cent, have recovered. 

Etches announced on May 1 that community transmission of the virus had peaked in the city, and modelling suggests it's unlikely to spike again as long as residents continue physical distancing.

Wear masks, Etches advises

In her update to council Wednesday morning, Etches also confirmed case counts, deaths and outbreaks in institutions are finally decreasing. As well, hospitalizations — including admissions to ICU — are stable.

These are all good signs that physical distancing is working, and that some pandemic-related restrictions could be lifted soon, Etches said.

But as businesses and services gradually reopen, physical distancing could become more challenging, so Etches is encouraging the public to wear non-medical masks more regularly. 

"This is something we want to encourage," Etches told councillors. "It's the counterbalance to the risk that increases as we increase our interactions. We push back down on the level of infection the more we continue to maintain our distance and use [masks]."

With files from Joanne Chianello

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