Chief Public Health Officer of Canada Dr. Theresa Tam gestures as she speaks at a press conference on COVID-19, at West Block on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Canada to do millionth COVID-19 test but numbers still falling short

Canada has now completed 970,000 tests, with about 30,000 of them done in the last 24 hours

Canada is on track to complete its millionth test for COVID-19 sometime in the next 24 hours but is still falling far short of the number of daily tests Canada’s chief public health officer said last month should soon be possible.

Dr. Theresa Tam said Wednesday there are still positive signs the spread of COVID-19 is slowing in most of the country though she continues to express concerns about outbreaks in long-term care homes and in the remote community of La Loche, Sask.

Tam said health workers are now going door-to-door in La Loche, a Dene village 600 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon, trying to search out infections after the virus began to spread rapidly in recent days. Tam said officials are taking the outbreak “extremely seriously.”

Keeping the virus out of remote locations was a key goal for public health officials, who acknowledged testing and treating patients who live far from full-access medical facilities would not be easy.

Tam also said the number of deaths in Canada from COVID-19 — more than 4,100 on Wednesday — is higher than the 3,883 anticipated by national projections for the illness at this point, because so many of the people getting sick are elderly residents in group settings like nursing homes and retirement residences.

More than three-quarters of the deaths are connected with those facilities.

Quebec is moving to lift some restrictions on visitors to the province’s private retirement residences, even as the number of soldiers going to help care for patients in long-term care homes grows. Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos said more than 700 members of the military are already on the ground at 13 facilities in Quebec, and at least 300 more are expected to be deployed soon to seven additional homes.

COVID-19 burnout: Can-do attitude gives way to anxiety, despair for many

Ontario, where more than 200 long-term-care homes have reported outbreaks, is not following suit. Ontario Premier Doug Ford said his province was “nowhere close” to being ready to allow visitors in or allow residents to go outside. He called it a “massive risk” to do so at the moment.

Ford did not apologize for blasting some regional public health officials Tuesday who he claims are falling down on the job of ensuring enough tests were completed. He said it wasn’t meant to be personal but everyone has to be held accountable.

Ontario lagged behind its goal of 16,000 tests for the second day in a row Wednesday, completing fewer than 13,000 tests in the last 24 hours.

Nationally, Tam said Canada has now completed 970,000 tests, with about 30,000 of them done in the last 24 hours. Canada has averaged more than 28,000 tests a day over the last week, putting the country on course to hit the one-million mark likely sometime on Wednesday or Thursday.

Two weeks ago Tam said she believed the provinces had the capacity to expand to 60,000 tests a day. So far, the most done in a day is 42,000 on April 30.

Tam said more provinces are expanding their testing criteria, including to people with wider ranging symptoms, or very mild symptoms, as everyone begins to move towards the new normal of “living with COVID-19.”

“For sure that many jurisdictions now are opening up clinics where people with even mild symptoms can get tested, so that is definitely happening,” she said.

Expanding testing is needed to try to see if there is any community spread of COVID-19 that has not yet been detected. With limited capacity, tests have looked mostly at people with very specific symptoms or in specific situations, such as long-term care homes and health workers.

READ MORE: Keep ‘pandemic bubbles’ small, top doctor urges as B.C. prepares to loosen rules

Tam said the number of tests being completed is critical as provinces begin to reopen their economies and the spread of the virus in Canada continues to slow. Being able to test suspected cases and then trace all their contacts to prevent another spike in cases is fundamental to Canada’s learning to live with COVID-19, Tam said.

She also stressed that because this virus is being spread by people who have no symptoms, reopening schools and businesses requires a continued effort to physically distance individuals from each other, and regular hand washing.

Alberta announced Tuesday it intended to spend $4.5 million to double its daily test numbers from 7,000 to 14,000.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not hold his regular daily COVID-19 briefing Wednesday, as he attended a repatriation ceremony for six Canadian soldiers killed when their helicopter crashed last week.

The House of Commons is holding its second in-person sitting of the special COVID-19 committee in Ottawa, where opposition parties are grilling the government on its response plan.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CanadaCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Mission-born hockey prospect joins Hockey Canada’s national junior team’s development camp

Gage Goncalves added to roster of Canada’s National Junior Team Sport Chek Summer Development Camp

Sumas First Nation pilots eight-inch gill-net fishery in Sumas/Vedder River

Project in Abbotsford renews fishing practice and data gathering of chinook salmon

Abbotsford Police complete restoration of vintage cruiser

1965 Chevy Biscayne named ‘Carol’ in honour of inspector who died of cancer

Chilliwack home built in 1910 will be saved from demolition

The 110-year-old house on Hope River Road is being relocated to nearby Riverside Drive

Abbotsford woman starts petition to have B.C. government help with IVF costs

Jennifer Kuiken says cost of in vitro fertilization is too high for most people

Study suggests 8 times more people in B.C. infected with virus than confirmed

The study looked at anonymous blood samples collected for reasons unrelated to COVID-19

Commons finance committee to begin probing WE Charity’s volunteering contract

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has admitted he should have recused himself from the decision

Woman receives ‘extremely disturbing sexual threats’ while on Lower Mainland bus

The woman was riding the bus when she received threats of sexual violence from someone nearby

Canucks want baby bear cub at Aldergrove zoo named Huggy Bear

Greater Vancouver Zoo recently rescued three grizzly bear cub who need names

Police watchdog probes Vancouver arrest after man on bicycle left with ‘serious’ injuries

Police were searching for a man who was allegedly involved in a prior incident when they saw him on a bicycle

‘We’re not busting ghosts’: Northern B.C. paranormal investigators check out bistro

Paranormal North Coast British Columbia recently checked out PF Bistro at City Centre Mall.

Russian hackers seeking to steal COVID-19 vaccine data: intel agencies

It is believed APT29, also known as ‘the Dukes’ or ‘Cozy Bear’ was responsible

Twitter racing to unravel mystery cyberattack

Some of the world’s most prominent names had their Twitter accounts post invitations for an apparent Bitcoin scam

B.C. announces funding to support post-secondary students with disabilities

The province is investing $275,000 in the new BCcampus website

Most Read