COVID-19 in Canada Oct. 6: 'Very alarming' coronavirus testing trend emerges in Toronto, Ontario passes testing milestone

Elisabetta Bianchini
·6 mins read
COVID-19 In Canada
COVID-19 In Canada

Quebec’s health minister says it’s ‘really hard’ to figure out where COVID-19 cases originated

As COVID-19 cases continue to reach record levels in Quebec, health minister Christian Dubé continues to urge people to “stay home” as much as possible.

He explained that in the first wave of COVID-19, many cases were linked to travel and eventually brought into long-term care homes, and there was “very little” community transmission.

“It’s really hard to say, when you have a student being diagnosed at school, where he got it,” Dubé said. “Did he get it from his parents, did he get it from his friends, from an uncle who who got it at work?”

The health minister revealed that Quebec hospitals are ready for the hospitalization rates forecasted “for the next month” but stressed that people shouldn’t “test the hospital system” and need to follow the public health measures in place.

Ontario hits COVID-19 testing milestone

Ontario surpassed four million COVID-19 test since the beginning of the pandemic, as the province shifts to appointment-based testing.

“It's clear from today's milestone that we have the most robust, most comprehensive testing strategy in the entire country, and in fact, we have completed more tests than all the other provinces combined,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said in a statement. “Having this critical capacity will ensure we are able to track, trace, and isolate the deadly invisible enemy we face through the second wave.”

Despite reaching this testing milestone, the premier also recognized the recent information that reveals areas of Toronto, including his own neighbourhood, are seeing positivity rates exceeding 10 per cent.

“That’s where we have to focus on,” Ford said.

Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, said this is “very concerning” information and these rates are “too high.” She also recommended that case follow-up be prioritized in these areas of Toronto.

Officials urge Ontarians to stick to their household for Thanksgiving celebrations

Ford was asked at a press conference on Tuesday how restaurant settings differ from household gatherings, as public health officials continue to recommend Ontarians celebrate Thanksgiving with just their household.

“It’s like apples and bananas,” the premier said, stressed that restaurants are taking down everyone’s name, limiting seating to six at a table, installing dividers and “have protocols in place.”

After some back and forth, Ford urged Ontarians to celebrate Thanksgiving with their household even though indoor gathering limits are set to 10 people.

“That doesn’t mean you should go to 10,” Dr. Yaffe said, adding that if someone lives alone, they can join another household. She gave the example that her son, who lives alone, who will be joining her household for Thanksgiving.

‘More public health measures are needed’

Dr. Howard Njoo, the deputy chief public health officer, and health minister Patty Hajdu commented on a recent report from the Toronto Star revealing that some areas of Toronto are seeing more than 10 per cent of COVID-19 tests coming back positive.

Dr. Njoo said this is a “worrisome” trend and highlighted that positivity rates should be kept under five per cent.

“It is an indication that more public health measures are needed and there is uncontained community spread,” Hajdu said.

She added that this is “very alarming” and especially concerning because although it is in certain areas of the city, “we know that people don’t just stay in their neighbourhoods.”

As the COVID Alert app is now being adopted in Quebec, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said she wants to see more people who are positive keying in their unique code to better alert Canadians of possible exposures.

“That’s not happening sufficiently,” she said, admitting the app is not a “perfect system” but still a useful tool.

In advance of Thanksgiving, Dr. Tam urged Canadians to reduce the size of their gathering this year while COVID-19 continues to spread.

“We will be able to return to these cozy indoor gatherings one day but while we live with COVID-19, we all need to think carefully about our Thanksgiving plans this year,” she said.

Canada signs new agreement for COVID-19 rapid tests

The federal government has announced that a new agreement with Abbott Rapid Diagnostics has been signed to purchase up to 20.5 million Panbio COVID-19 Antigen rapid tests.

These tests are easier to perform with limited training, can be done at the point of care and results can come through in about 20 minutes.

Hajdu said these tests will be particularly helpful in more remote or isolated communities, or in particular settings where a quick test result is critical, like in situations where there is a large cluster of outbreaks.

Dr. Njoo said the PCR test is still be best option for accuracy, but this additional testing method still has its advantages, primarily its rapid results.

Nova Scotia introduces gargle sample collection for children

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil announced the IWK Health Centre will begin using the gargle sample collection method for COVID-19 testing, beginning on Oct. 7. This was initially used and evaluated in B.C. and will be available to children between the ages of four and 18.

“If the pilot is successful, we will soon be able to do this at all of our primary assessment centres,” McNeil said.

Nova Scotia is also expanding its testing capacity and adding equipment in Sydney in early November so tests won’t have to be sent to Halifax to be analyzed and processed.

14-day isolation rule will be in Atlantic provinces over the holidays, according to P.E.I.’s top doctor

Dr. Heather Morrison, the chief public health officer of Prince Edward Island, revealed Tuesday that it is likely self-isolation rules for people outside of the Atlantic bubble will still be in place over Christmas.

“For families who travel to P.E.I. from outside the Atlantic bubble, it is likely the requirement to self-isolate for 14 days will remain in place throughout the Christmas season,” Dr. Morrison said. “This is something that we will continue to look at over the next eight to ten weeks.”

She added that any family members coming to the province must receive pre-approval from the family connection stream, but the requirement to isolate will remain.

“We are paying close attention to what is happening in our other provinces,” Dr. Morrison said. “It is concerning to hear about the necessary but restrictive measures being reinstated, and health systems being overwhelmed.”

Check out our COVID-19 in Canada topic page for latest news, tips, health updates, cases and more.