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Monday, May 25, 2020

Ontario's COVID-19 test numbers continue to plummet as case count rises

For the eighth consecutive day in a row, Ontario has fallen short of its own testing targets for the 2019 novel coronavirus — a concerning trend to note as new case numbers remain above the 400 mark and the province begins to reopen its economy and public spaces.

Only 8,170 COVID-19 tests were completed on Sunday, according to Ontario's Ministry of Health, down from 11,383 the day previous.

This is just over half of the 16,000 daily tests Premier Doug Ford promised we'd be seeing by this point (after already revising an earlier target of nearly 19,000) and a steep drop from the more than 17,000 tests per day recorded at the beginning of May.

The inexplicable dip in overall testing rates is prompting concern among experts and members of the public alike given a recent uptick in new case numbers.

Analysts first started noticing a marked rise in new cases last Tuesday, when 427 were recorded through Ontario's integrated Public Health Information System after nearly two weeks of steady declines.

Only 404 new cases were confirmed by the province Monday morning, down from 460 the day previous, but the downward momentum Ontario had been experiencing does appear to have stalled.

Ford himself said during a press conference last week that such a spike might be normal if testing numbers had risen to full capacity — more tests mean more positive results, after all — but the exact opposite has happened, making a sustained spike all the more worrying.

Ontario's Minister of Health Christine Elliott cautioned last week that it's too soon to tell whether or not the recent increase in case numbers is related to the province's reopening of select businesses and service types

Officials are, however, watching the numbers closely "to see what the effect is on public health from the changes that have happened as the result of Stage 1."

As of May 24 at 4 p.m., Public Health Ontario had confirmed 25,904 cases of COVID-19 across the province.

Nearly 20,000 of those cases are now considered by the government to be "resolved," however, representing an overall recovery rate of 76 per cent.

More than 2,012 people have died in Ontario as a result of contracting the virus, which now has a mortality rate of 8.1 per cent, with 1,323 of those deaths recorded among patients in long-term care facilities.

It is not yet clear why testing is down, but Ford promised last week that plans for random, asymptomatic community testing would soon be released.

The premier is now also encouraging all residents to go and get tested for COVID-19, though his messaging in regards to whether or not a person must be symptomatic has proven confusing.

by Lauren O'Neil via blogTO

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