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

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

(Black Press Media photo)
Geriatric psychiatrist stresses importance of senior mental health

Dr. Hem Phaterpekar talks hope and healthy living amid COVID-19 pandemic

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Surrey, Langley twin brothers who own companies together battle in court

Presiding judge described Surrey resident Kerry Hawley and Langley resident Kelly Petersen as ‘self-made successes’

Aldergrove Library (Aldergrove Star files)
Aldergrove library hopes to reintroduce senior’s programming later in the year

Zoom gatherings including author talks, book clubs, and knitting groups are in the works

Aldergrove Star files
Township of Langley opens up volunteer award nominations

Awards for youth, coaches, and ‘Langley life enhancers’ are up for grabs

H.D. Stafford Middle School has recorded its second COVID-19 exposure since the resumption of classes in January. (Google Map)
H.D. Stafford Middle School records another COVID-19 exposure

This is the second reported case since resumption of classes in January

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
536 COVID cases, 7 deaths reported as B.C. find its first case of South African variant

Henry said 69,746 people have received their first dose of the COVID vaccine.

Alan Davidson was sentenced to almost six years for abusing seven boys in the late 1970s and early 1990s. (Canadian Press file)
Full parole granted to former Mountie, sports coach convicted of sex abuse of boys

Alan Davidson convicted of abusing boys in B.C. and Saskatchewan in late ’70s, early ’90s

Letisha Reimer died Nov. 1, 2016 after being stabbed at Abbotsford Senior Secondary.
No evidence that killer was in ‘psychotic state’ during Abbotsford school stabbing: Crown

Second day of closing arguments at ‘not criminally responsible’ hearing for Gabriel Klein

The first COVID-19 vaccine arrives in B.C. in temperature-controlled containers, Dec. 13, 2020. (B.C. government)
More vaccine arrives as B.C. struggles with remote COVID-19 cases

Long-term care homes remain focus for public health

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine dose in Canada is prepared at The Michener Institute in Toronto on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in 60 B.C. First Nations by next week

B.C. has allocated 25,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to First Nations for distribution by the end of February

Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone questions the NDP government in the B.C. legislature, Feb. 25, 2020. (Hansard TV)
Todd Stone says he’s not running for B.C. Liberal leadership

Kamloops MLA was widely viewed as a front-runner

Wireless voice and data services are out for those on Telus as of Thursday (Jan. 14) afternoon across Western Canada, Telus Support said in a recent Tweet. (Black Press file photo)
UPDATE: Telus services restored across Western Canada

Telus said they are monitoring the situation to ensure connections remain stable

Screenshot from video.
2 students arrested in assault of transgender girl at Lower Mainland school

Mother says daughter was targeted because of how she identifies

Most Read