Requests for COVID-19 testing increase
By Sue Tiffin
Haliburton County is seeing an influx in requests for COVID-19 testing, according to the Haliburton Highlands Family Health Team, possibly in response to Premier Doug Ford’s weekend public plea that Ontario residents get tested.
“Our numbers [of those being tested] from last week to this week have tripled, but we are doing everything we can to meet the demand,” said Kimberley Robinson, HHFHT executive director and office manager. “I would surmise that it relates directly to Premier Doug Ford’s announcement on Sunday, May 24. His plea was that everyone should be tested, which differs from the MOH testing strategy that calls for symptomatic patients or asymptomatic patients who are concerned that they have been exposed (people who are contacts of or may have been exposed to a confirmed or suspected case or who are at risk through their employment) to COVID-19 to be tested.”
Robinson noted the health team is encouraging testing for the residents she defined and have increased hours to meet the demand.
“We had been reducing the hours of the assessment centre due to decreased demand from those who were having symptoms possibly related to COVID 19, which makes sense as cold and flu season are waining and we have not had a significant COVID 19 out break here,” Dr. Norm Bottum of the HHFHT told the Times. “Now with asymptomatic testing we have seen a marked spike in phone calls! We definitely want to keep on testing those that have symptoms of concern or have had possible contact with COVID-19 cases. Those will be our highest priority. But we will now book appointments at the assessment centre for anyone who would like to be tested.”
Though initially Ministry of Health guidelines suggested only those with one or more particular symptoms of the novel coronavirus – namely a fever or a cough, alongside travel – be tested, the province’s testing strategy has increasingly added symptoms that qualify residents for tests. A COVID-19 self-assessment on the province’s website lists symptoms that include: fever, chills, cough that’s new or worsening, shortness of breath, sore throat, runny nose, lost sense of taste or smell, pink eye, unusual or long-lasting headache digestive issues, muscle aches, extreme tiredness, falling down and sluggishness or lack of appetite in children.
In their May 25 social media post, the HHFHT noted the
assessment centre is open, but an appointment is required “to help
control volume and maintain the safety of our team ... You will not be
‘turned away,’ but we may not have capacity to test you the day you
“We are going to look at our protocols and look at opportunities to increase our screening capacity,” said Bottum. “Certainly those individuals without symptoms can be screened much more quickly than those with symptoms and we will be seeing more of the former.”
“We are also looking into opportunities along with the hospital and EMS services to increase screening capacity to groups at highest risk, namely those businesses with a lot of customer contact, e.g. grocery and hardware stores.”
Bottum said further details on this would be shared over the next week.
The Haliburton County assessment centre has completed 244 swabs as of May 25. Seven confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Haliburton County have been recorded as resolved since April. Currently, the May 26 cumulative data on confirmed cases within the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit notes one case in Haliburton as being a current high-risk contact, which the health unit’s website defines as being an asymptomatic individual who is known to have been in contact with a confirmed or probable case. In total the HKPRDHU, which includes the City of Kawartha Lakes and Northumberland, reported 170 confirmed cases, with 145 of those being resolved.
Last Friday, the HKPRDHU offered an update on outbreaks in the region. One staff person tested positive for COVID-19 at Kawartha Lakes retirement residence in Bobcaygeon causing an outbreak to be declared on May 12, an asymptomatic resident tested positive for COVID-19 at Empire Crossing retirement residence in Port Hope causing an outbreak to be declared May 16, and an asymptomatic staff person tested positive for COVID-19 at Fenelon Court long-term care home causing an outbreak to be declared May 18. Outbreaks involving one resident being tested positive for COVID-19 that were declared May 4 at Caressant Care Mary in Lindsay and Maplewood nursing home in Brighton were declared over on May 22.
Please note that testing is by appointment only. An online self-assessment is available at Ontario.ca/coronavirus. During regular business hours, call the Haliburton County COVID-19 Community Assessment Centre at 705-457-1212 and press 6, or Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000.