Ontario reported 344 additional cases of COVID-19 on Friday and said it surpassed its testing benchmark for the second straight day.
The news comes as the province prepares to roll out its updated testing strategy later today.
The new cases bring the total in the province since the COVID-19 outbreak began in January to 27,210. Slightly more than 77 per cent of those cases are now resolved.
Ontario’s network of labs processed 18,525 tests yesterday, the most since May 15. The current daily target is 16,000, though the system has the capacity to handle more than 23,000 on any given day.
The backlog of samples waiting to be processed grew to 13,351, meaning more than 20,000 tests were added to the queue yesterday.
The overall number of patients in Ontario hospitals with confirmed cases of COVID-19 fell again — down seven to 826 — and remained at its lowest level seen in about a month.
The death toll from COVID-19 currently sits at 2,275, according to data compiled by CBC News. About 78.5 per cent of all deaths in the province were residents in long-term care homes.
Pop-up testing centres
Meanwhile, Ontario’s Ministry of Health is helping to run “pop-up” COVID-19 assessment centres in one of the province’s hardest-hit areas.
In a news release issued Friday morning, the Scarborough Health Network said it is working in conjunction with the ministry and Toronto Public Health to operate the first of the pop-up testing centres at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, in the northeast part of the city.
Officials are encouraging anyone who thinks they may have been infected with the novel coronavirus, even if they are asymptomatic, to get tested.
The assessment centre will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET today. Two more days of pop-up testing are scheduled in Scarborough thus far, though the ministry says there will be a total of days at five different locations.
The next is scheduled for June 1 at the Westminster Presbyterian Church, while a third will be held at Global Kingdom Ministries on June 2.
North Scarborough is among the three areas of Toronto with the most COVID-19 cases, according to data released by Toronto Public Health earlier this week. Northern Etobicoke and parts of North York also have a high number of cases. All three areas are home to relatively low-income neighbourhoods with dense multi-unit residences.
The pop-up assessment centres are likely part of the province’s updated testing strategy, which will be released today.
Expanded testing strategy
A memo circulated by the Ministry of Health last weekend suggested that it will include a directive that anyone who is concerned that they may have COVID-19 is not to be refused a test. Some infectious disease experts have been critical of the province’s messaging on testing, saying it has thus far left room for confusion about who actually qualifies for an assessment.
Public health officials are expected to hold a technical briefing for media on the new testing strategy beginning at 11:30 a.m. Premier Doug Ford is then scheduled to hold his daily briefing at 1 p.m. His office said Ford will be joined by Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health.
The province has failed to reach its daily testing target more than half the time in May. Levels dropped sharply once a blitz of nearly all long-term care residents and staff was completed over the long weekend, but they have picked up again in recent days after Ontario relaxed criteria for members of the public to be tested.
Ford has spoken about testing asymptomatic front-line health-care workers, large workplaces such as food manufacturing facilities, groups such as truck or taxi drivers, and doing a second round of testing in long-term care.
He said mass testing is the province’s best defence against the virus.
Public health officials have said that ramping up testing in the general public will be essential as Ontario looks to further loosen restrictions put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19.