Ontario changes COVID-19 testing guidance, shifts focus to symptomatic testing

Thunder Bay not included in pharmacy COVID-19 testing

Simcoe region pharmacies not included in first phase of COVID-19 testing

The province has also said it will conduct asymptomatic testing in certain populations, like long-term care and health-care workers.

Pharmacies in Toronto, Brampton, Mississauga, Ottawa and a Shopper's Drug Mart in Huntsville will offer the service in an attempt to ease pressure on the province's 147 assessment centres.

Ford says Tuesday's announcement marks the first step of Ontario's pandemic fall preparedness plan, which will be rolled out over several days and contains six pillars.

Starting Friday anyone can get tested at select pharmacies, however, the bad news for local residents is there are no participating pharmacies in all of northern Ontario.

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The province saw a processing backlog of almost 50,000 tests on Wednesday as demand for the assessments surged because of the return to school.

Ontario assessment centres will no longer be testing asymptomatic individuals who have not had contact with COVID-19 cases, or outbreaks, and are not in high-risk workplaces.

151 new cases were recorded in Toronto, 82 in Ottawa, 46 in Peel Region, 34 in York Region and 26 in Waterloo.

The premier's office said Ford did not have close contact or prolonged exposure to the staffer and will monitor for symptoms.

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Until the province gets Health Canada's approval for new rapid tests as other jurisdictions are now using, the recommendation from Ontario public health experts is to become more strategic in who gets tested, he said.

The premier has already announced the province will launch a bolstered flu shot campaign in the coming weeks in a bid to preserve hospital capacity.

The province says this plan will help protect communities by quickly identifying, preventing and responding to COVID situations.

"The province must also ask non-essential businesses to have employees work from home and instruct universities and colleges to offer classes online, wherever possible", the health-care workers wrote.

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