Some Ontario hospitals are preparing to create stand-alone testing centres for coronavirus if COVID-19 begins spreading widely within the province, CBC Toronto has learned.
The news comes as the Ontario Ministry of Health reports a 24th case of the illness in a patient who recently returned from Las Vegas.
According to two health sector sources familiar with the plans, Toronto-area hospitals would establish separate assessment centres in facilities such as portables. The sources confirmed that the Michael Garron Hospital is one of the facilities applying to create a stand-alone assessment centre.
The move would reduce the risk that patients with COVID-19 spread the coronavirus to uninfected people in hospital emergency rooms.
“We are working with certain hospitals and have requested that they submit applications,” said a Ministry of Health official in an email.
“This is in preparation in the event of community spread to endure our continued ability to effectively test and respond.”
The official could not say how many Ontario hospitals will create the assessment centres, but said they will be located “where we expect there to be significant testing in the event of community spread. This would likely include centres outside of Toronto.”
So far the vast majority of COVID-19 cases in Ontario have been contracted during travel to affected areas, such as China and Iran, and public health officials continue to describe the risk in the province as low.
The Ministry of Health said more details about the most recently diagnosed patient would be provided later on Friday.
Toronto Public Health is also scheduled to provide an update Friday on the city’s response.
Major tech conference moves online
Also on Friday, the Collision tech conference, which was expected to bring thousands to the city this summer, was moved online.
“Given the uncertainty facing a large number of public events around the world due to the progression of COVID-19, we have made the very difficult decision to postpone Collision from taking place physically until June 2021,” the organization said on its website.
Toronto officials said the conference was a key part of driving the city’s busiest tourism year ever in 2019. This year, expectations are already being tamped down with the spread of COVID-19 leading people to re-consider their travel plans.