Ottawa

Ottawa to boost COVID-19 testing in preparation for fall surge

Public health officials in Ottawa say they're preparing to significantly ramp up testing for COVID-19 in time for an anticipated surge in demand this fall.

Health officials planning for up to 7,000 tests per day, up from 1,500

A woman and child wait in line at a mobile COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal in May. Ottawa health officials say they plan to ramp up this city's testing capacity to up to 7,000 swabs per day by the fall. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Public health officials in Ottawa say they're preparing to significantly ramp up testing for COVID-19 in time for an anticipated surge in demand this fall.

"We're currently building up more capacity in our testing centres to accommodate the anticipated need in the fall," said Dr. Alan Forster of The Ottawa Hospital during a teleconference Tuesday.

Currently, health officials collect about 1,500 swabs per day, but they hope to up that number to between 5,000 and 7,000.

That will mean increasing the number of testing sites in Ottawa from the current three, which will involve finding appropriate buildings and hiring staff, Forster said.

"There's a lot of action right now in acquiring equipment that would be used," he said. "That will really help us ramp up the ability to analyze the number of samples we anticipate will be coming through."

While health officials anticipate a surge in demand for testing in the coming months, Vera Etches, the city's medical officer of health, said Ottawa Public Health (OPH) is advising parents of returning students that their children don't need to get swabbed unless they're feeling unwell or have been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19.

"Testing your child before returning to school is generally not recommended if they do not have COVID-19 symptoms," she said on Tuesday.

OPH has created a new online resource to help parents navigate the pandemic during the school year. Etches said the page will be regularly updated with the latest information.

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