Ontario wasn’t ready for the COVID-19 testing surge, even though it was entirely predictable

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On her third try, at a Toronto-area hospital she had been turned away from the night before, Desveaux arrived in the morning to find a line that already stretched out of sight. “ You could see the front door, because it had wrapped all the way back around (the block),” she said. “I was like, this is insane. What happens when it gets colder?”

Desveaux, who works in health care herself, had nothing but praise for the actual staff she dealt with. “They’re just overwhelmed,” she said. The question is, why don’t they have more resources?

People line up at a COVID assessment centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Friday, September 18, 2020. Photo by Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

The National Post asked Health Minister Christine Elliott’s office why the province wasn’t more prepared for this surge. Anna Miller, a spokeswoman for Ontario Health, replied in a statement that the ministry is looking at allowing pharmacies to perform some COVID tests and is considering some new, more rapid testing technology. The province is also adding pop-up testing centres and increasing the hours at some existing sites in the hardest hit regions of the province, including Toronto, Peel and Ottawa.

“As the ministry continues its broad capacity planning efforts into fall, the Testing Strategy will also evolve to ensure testing continues to be available to those who need it most,” she said.

Experts, however, say all of that should have happened months ago. “Why are we not up to a capacity of a hundred thousand (tests) per day?” said Morris. “To me it is mind boggling.”

For now, Bogoch and others believe, until the situation dramatically improves, the message should be made clear: if you don’t have COVID symptoms or known exposure, you shouldn’t be getting a test.

“In a perfect world with infinite resources, it would be great to provide testing for everyone on a regular basis,” Bogoch said. But this is not a perfect world. It’s just Ontario.

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