covid wait times toronto

People in Toronto are now waiting way longer for COVID-19 test results

In typical Toronto style, getting tested for COVID-19 has recently become a thing you now have to wait hours in line to do. And if you were hoping at least for some speedy results, you'll have to wait longer than before for those too, new data shows.

Back in the spring, the province finally seemed to hit its stride as far as testing was concerned, ramping up daily capacity to hit targets after weeks of concerns that we weren't testing enough people for the deadly virus.

But now that the second wave is upon us, infection numbers are accelerating, more people are flocking to get tested, and labs are seeing huge backlogs.

As of Oct. 1, only 37 per cent of COVID-19 test results from Toronto are being processed within 48 hours, putting the city's labratory testing status — which it measures, along with a number of other factors, on its COVID-19 Monitoring Dashboard — in the red zone.

By comparison, earlier in September, this number was closer to 80 per cent, which is city's minimum goal for testing turnaround in that time frame.

And, while the city hopes to get more than 60 per cent of results to patients within 24 hours of testing, this figure has also slipped significantly, falling to just 18 per cent.

In the latest COVID stats released by the province Thursday morning, a healthy total of 39,646 tests had been completed in the past day — but the results of a whopping 82,473 were still pending, the highest backlog we've seen thus far.

Premier Doug Ford has worked to increase the number of testing centres available to the public, adding 60 pharmacies provincewide to the list of hospitals providing the nasopharyngeal swab.

Unfortunately, it doesn't seem lab processing capacity has been able to keep up, though the provincial government continues to vow to expand it.

In the meantime, officials have asked that only those who are symptomatic or have been in close contact with a patient should seek testing, and that those who are crowding testing centre lineups just for peace of mind should stay home.

"Your average person out there who is not exposed to a case, who is not part of an outbreak, has no symptoms, should not be going for testing," Ontario's Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Barbara Yaffe, said at a press conference last week.

"There's no value. In fact, what we found is when there's very little COVID in that group, what we end up with is false positives, which just complicates things even more."

So before you head out to spend your entire day in a lineup outside a Toronto hospital, ask yourself whether you really qualify to get tested right now — keeping in mind that the majority of those who do receive a positive diagnoses are simply told to stay home and self-isolate anyways.

At the very least, do a drive-by of your local hospital or check a wait time tracker before you go.

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez


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