Ontario to expand COVID-19 testing at long-term care facilities after dozens of new deaths

A pair of Toronto long-term care facilities reported dozens of new deaths linked to COVID-19 on Monday, while the province says an enhanced testing program is on the way.

Previous policy tested only contacts of confirmed carriers or others showing symptoms

Ontario health officials said the spread of the novel coronavirs appears to be accelerating in long-term care facilties. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

A pair of Toronto long-term care facilities reported dozens of new deaths linked to COVID-19 on Monday, while the province says an enhanced testing program is on the way.

Meighen Manor confirmed that 18 of its residents have recently died after contracting the novel coronavirus.

The facility in midtown Toronto says 50 residents and 14 staff members have now tested positive for COVID-19.

In west Toronto, the Elm Grove Living Centre also reported its first deaths on Monday, announcing that 12 people at the facility have died of the disease.

The outbreak at Elm Grove has infected 83 residents at the facility, which has a maximum occupancy of 126. Thirty-six of the home's 162 staff members have also tested positive, the facility confirmed to CBC News on Monday.

"This is an extremely difficult and uncertain time for our community who we continue to be in frequent and open communication with throughout this period," said administrator Sandro Perciamontani in an email.

"We will remain focused on the well-being of our residents, their families and our hard-working staff."

According to data from the provincial government, there are now COVID-19 outbreaks at 127 long-term care facilities across Ontario.

Those outbreaks have contributed to the deaths of 367 residents, according to provincial figures.

Some of the worst outbreaks include the deaths of 34 people at Eatonville Care Centre in west Toronto, and 23 deaths at Seven Oaks in east Toronto.

Altamont Care Community in Scarborough confirmed eight more people died over the weekend, bringing the total deaths related to COVID-19 to 24. An additional 56 residents have tested positive. 

Ontario to introduce enhanced testing

Ontario health officials released new modelling data on Monday forecasting substantially fewer total cases and hospitalizations due to COVID-19 than previously expected.

However, the province warned that the gains from slowing the virus in the greater community are not being experienced at long-term care facilities, where the spread of the novel coronavirus was said to be accelerating.

Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario's associate chief medical officer of health, also announced on Monday that the province has completed enhanced testing at 21 long-term care facilities.

Ontario's associate chief medical officer of health, Dr. Barbara Yaffe, says results of the enhanced testing suggest the program should be more widely applied. (Pierre-Olivier Bernatchez/CBC)

She described the new strategy as "active surveillance," in which all residents and staff are tested for the disease. 

The province's previous policy was to test only the contacts of people confirmed to be carrying the virus or others showing symptoms.

It is hoped that enhanced testing could provide new insights about the prevalence of the disease and the role of asymptomatic carriers of the virus.

"We know now that COVID-19 can present in many different ways, particularly in elderly people," Yaffe said.

She indicated the enhanced testing policy will soon be introduced to more long-term care facilities, with a focus on those with confirmed cases. 

Ontario has not said when the enhanced testing will be performed.


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