covid test

Ontario has finally opened PCR testing up to more people again

Though things like wastewater data and social media posts suggest that Ontario's COVID-19 case numbers are spiking once more in what some are calling a sixth wave of the health crisis, it's hard to get definitive figures given that the province severely slashed who is eligible for a publicly-funded PCR test at the end of last year.

Much of the public was pretty pissed about the move, which may save resources and money but also obviously means that most people wouldn't have access to more sensitive, reliable testing.

While select "high-risk" people such as anyone at risk of more severe illness from the virus (e.g. those in hospital), people who live or work in certain ongregate living situations, and symptomatic healthcare workers have been the only ones able to get a free PCR test for some months now, others have relied on pricey private tests, or paid or free rapid tests (if they can get their hands on them).

Others have simply, as instructed by experts, stayed home and isolated if they experience any respiratory symptoms, all with the unconfirmed presumption that they have the virus.

But, Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore — who in January called testing "a luxury" — has announced that testing was once again being expanded to more people as transmission continues.

"As we learn to manage and live with COVID-19, use the tools available to us," Moore said during a press conference on Monday afternoon, adding that upward trends in COVID numbers are likely to continue for several weeks.

Additional demographics who now meet the new testing criteria include adults 18 and over who are considered immunocompromised in any way, adults 18 and over who have had fewer than three vaccine doses and at least one of a list of risk conditions (outlined here), anyone 60 and older who has had fewer than three doses, and anyone 70 and older.

Meanwhile, Moore recommends that residents "layer personal protective measures... even when the may not be legally required," including wearing masks and taking anti-viral medications, some of which will now be more readily available to more people across the province, according to today's announcement.

Moore also reiterated that PCR tests can read positive long after a patient is recovered, meaning that COVID hospitalization numbers may not be fully accurate, as "you may have had a motor vehicle collision or you may have had some other medical issue and incidentally tested positive by PCR."

"There are some nuances to the data and the projections and the modelling that we have to review very, very closely," he added.

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