Regional COVID-19 testing jumps five-fold in one day under new rules

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis speaks to reporters during his daily briefing on Tuesday, May 26, 2020. Roumeliotis says the health unit has seen a 'huge' increase in testing since the province loosened rules on who could be tested. (EOHU/Zoom via Newswatch Group)

CORNWALL – With relaxed criteria on novel coronavirus testing, the number of residents showing up for a swab at Eastern Ontario Health Unit assessment centers has seen a “tremendous increase,” the region’s medical officer of health said Tuesday.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the daily average for swabbing jumped five-fold to nearly 500 tests in one day to a total of 7,831 tests conducted in the region.

Here’s the breakdown of regional testing (location – test total to date, tests on Monday, average daily tests prior to the new rules):

  • Hawkesbury – 980, 77, 18-20
  • Cornwall – 1,157, 68, 23-24
  • Winchester – 555, 65, 11-20
  • Casselman (drive-through) – 939, 103, 17-25
  • Rockland – 556, 55, 7-18

Monday was the first day after Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that anybody could get a test regardless of whether they had symptoms.

Dr. Paul Roumeliotis says they will test everybody but there will still be a priority for people who have symptoms and people who may have come into contact with someone with COVID-19.

“If you think you’ve been in contact or if you’re worried about being in contact. We’re not going to scrimp on, were you contact or not or why you’re scared, we’re just going to test people.”

But he cautioned that he doesn’t want to see people coming every day for testing because the test is just a moment in time, meaning you could be positive two or three days after the test. Roumeliotis says a negative test doesn’t mean you can’t get the virus.

Also, the test will not show whether you’ve had COVID-19 in the past.

Roumeliotis understands the “zeal” for people to get tested but he doesn’t want residents to get a false sense of security. “I don’t want to have people coming every day just to be tested just in case and, again, I don’t want that false security.”

While Roumeliotis believes there is enough swabs to keep up if the increased testing trend continues, he is concerned about personal protective equipment (PPE) stocks in Casselman and Hawkesbury. He says a call has already been made to the Ontario Ministry of Health for additional supplies.

The number of positive cases in the region remained steady Tuesday at 144 with one more resolved case for a total of 86.