Backlog of COVID Testing a Growing Concern

Yesterday I received a call from my son’s school.  He was in the office with an upset stomach, a condition he deals with from time to time.  As “nausea” was one of the screening symptoms for COVID-19, I picked him up resigned to the fact that we’d be spending today standing in line at a local testing site.

As it turned out, the Ontario government also announced new screening rules yesterday, indicating that a student showing a single, less severe symptom, such as a runny nose or headache, could return to school in 24 hours if the condition is improving.

We were relieved in one sense that we wouldn’t be spending days worried about COVID-19 testing.  However, with 723 COVID-19 cases reported in Ontario today, a new record for a second time this week, and 384 new cases in Toronto, there are concerns that these eased screening programs make it easier for undiagnosed cases to slip through the cracks of schools and into other vulnerable communities.  Changing rules and increased confusion leaves parents wondering if they are doing the right thing.

Since the start of the school year, parents have been concerned that a single sniffle – a very common occurrence over the winter – could mean days off work waiting for a COVID-19 test result.  A growing number of testing sites available was good news for reducing line-ups, but the results still need to be delivered.  As of yesterday, 82,000 tests are in the backlog waiting to be processed in Ontario, and some test results can currently take up to a week to be delivered.

It’s clear that testing capacity remains a big issue.  If we’re discouraging people from getting tested, either through public policy or just because of massive delays, we can’t adequately address the spread of this rapidly growing second wave.  On Wednesday, City Council formally urged the Province to take all necessary steps to improve this process.  Our families are counting on it.