Paramedics register patients at a drive through, pop-up COVID-19 test centre outside the Canadian Tire Centre, in Ottawa, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020. Two months after the City of Ottawa scrambled to expand its COVID-19 testing options to deal with a massive spike in demand, it is now set to cut back on hours at testing sites this weekend because far fewer people are showing up. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Paramedics register patients at a drive through, pop-up COVID-19 test centre outside the Canadian Tire Centre, in Ottawa, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020. Two months after the City of Ottawa scrambled to expand its COVID-19 testing options to deal with a massive spike in demand, it is now set to cut back on hours at testing sites this weekend because far fewer people are showing up. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

COVID-19 testing down across Canada as positive case numbers soar in most provinces

Average daily testing numbers are down more than 25 per cent compared to a month ago

Two months after the City of Ottawa scrambled to expand its COVID-19 testing options to deal with a massive spike in demand, it is now set to cut back on hours at testing sites this weekend because far fewer people are showing up for swabs.

The decline mirrors what is happening in much of the rest of the country, with average daily testing numbers down more than 25 per cent compared to a month ago, even as positive cases soar.

On Oct. 15, the Public Health Agency of Canada reported an average of 77,000 COVID-19 tests had been completed each day over the previous week, the highest it had ever been. That fell to an average daily count of 61,000 a week ago, and to below 55,000 this week.

In mid-October, Canada had about 2,300 new cases of COVID-19 diagnosed each day. This week, that number grew to above 4,000.

Ontario, which on Thursday recorded its fifth record case total in the last six days, was aiming to have 68,000 tests daily by the middle of November. It hasn’t hit 40,000 tests once in those six days, and twice dropped below 30,000 tests per day.

The province averaged 38,273 tests per day in October, and this month so far the daily average is 33,870.

British Columbia averaged 9,369 tests last month. So far in November the average daily test count is 9,101..

In many provinces the testing numbers bounce around dramatically. In Quebec, the province tested 30,919 people on Nov. 5. Three days later, the number dropped below 19,000. By Nov. 10, it was back up over 30,000. B.C.’s testing counts in November range from fewer than 5,000 a day to more than 12,000.

In a written statement, the Public Health Agency of Canada said the federal government is working with provinces to increase testing capacity but said the focus shouldn’t be on the number of tests, but how those tests are being used.

“We need to test smartly and test the right people at the right time,” the written statement from officials said.

Dr. Howard Njoo, the deputy chief public health officer, said a week ago that most provinces changed criteria this fall to focus testing mostly on people with symptoms, high-risk settings like hospitals and long-term care homes, and people with known exposures to someone with COVID-19.

“I think people are now recognizing that the best approach could or should be more focused that it may not be the best use of resources and it may actually sort of slow down the testing for those who actually need it,” he said Nov. 6.

Ontario’s testing system was unruly in September, leading the province to massively expand hours and locations of testing sites, create an appointment process, and change the criteria so people without symptoms didn’t clog the lines.

In Ottawa, the testing task force that in September was begging people not to get tested unless they had symptoms began last week to beg people to go get tests. Today, the weekend hours at one of the city’s main testing sites are being cut from 11 hours a day to eight because so many appointments were going unfilled.

Ottawa public health chief Dr. Vera Etches said weekends have become particularly slow. She said the overall numbers have come back a bit from earlier in November and didn’t express alarm that not enough people are being tested, saying it could be due to Ottawa’s declining infection rate.

Ottawa has mostly bucked Ontario’s trend of rising cases, with the infection rate falling from 70 per 100,000 people in mid-October to 38 this week. Toronto’s grew from 57 to almost 100 cases per 100,000 people over that time.

“You know, if the virus level is dropping, there may be more people without symptoms or fewer people with symptoms presenting to be tested,” Etches said.

But she said she still wants people to know if they have symptoms, even very mild ones, getting a test is the responsible thing to do because “we have to detect as much COVID as possible.”

“And so it is one of the things we’re watching and we continue to work with our partners that run the testing system to try to explore more,” she said.

“Why are people coming? Why are they not coming? You know, these are these are things that’s worth exploring for sure.”

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog is happy to be on hand as Dodd’s Furniture and Mattress, represented by president Gordy Dodd, presents 150 blankets to the Salvation Army in Nanaimo, represented by envoy Dawne Anderson. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Furniture store donates 150 blankets to Salvation Army in Nanaimo

Dodd’s cancels drive-thru giving event due to COVID-19, but finds another way to help

Creativity Commons manger Jonathon Bigelow is printing copies of ‘Alone but Not Alone: Poetry in Isolation’ using the Nanaimo Harbourfront Library’s Espresso Book Machine. (Photo courtesy Corinne Shortridge)
Nanaimo Harbourfront Library releases COVID-19-themed poetry anthology

‘Alone but Not Alone: Poetry in Isolation’ features poets from across the Vancouver Island region

Letter writer isn’t convinced that a pride-of-place campaign and a leaders’ table initiative will result in the kind of decisions and actions needed in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file photo)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Real change requires more than buzzwords

Letter writer questions pride-of-place campaign, leaders’ table initiative

Nanaimo city councillors have recommended a $1.3-million cycle track for Albert Street between Pine Street and Milton Street. The city held a budget-focused finance and audit committee meeting Friday. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
City of Nanaimo budgets for new $1.3-million bike lane on Albert Street

Potential property tax increase now at 3.6 per cent after finance and audit meeting Friday

Police escorted residents of a homeless encampment on Wesley Street to and from the site to collect their belongings Thursday and Friday following a fire that destroyed several tents and ignited a number of propane tanks. The encampment has been permanently cleared and its residents dispersed. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Occupants of Nanaimo’s Wesley Street encampment offered support following fire and displacement

City of Nanaimo permanently clears homeless camp over ongoing safety concerns

Pickleball game in Vancouver on Sunday, November 8, 2020. B.C.’s public health restrictions for COVID-19 have been extended to adult team sports, indoors and outside. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
711 more COVID-19 cases detected in B.C. Friday

‘Virus is not letting up and neither can we’

Robert Riley Saunders. (File)
First Nations Leadership Council demands justice for victims of B.C. social worker

Union of BC Indian Chiefs calls actions of Robert Saunders ‘nothing short of complete depravity’

B.C. NDP leader John Horgan releases his election platform, Vancouver, Oct. 6, 2020, featuring COVID-19 relief payments promised for most households. (B.C. NDP photo)
Next $1.5 billion in B.C. COVID-19 cash ‘prudent,’ Horgan says

New round of payments for household incomes up to $175,000

The opening day on Mount Washington this year was Dec. 4. Screenshot
Mount Washington opens on time, COVID-19 protocols in place

“We’re super excited - it’s been six months in the planning.”

Steve Metcalfe, Quality Foods Harewood store manager, holds a poinsettia and a Coins for Kids donation jar, two symbols of Christmas spirit. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin
Coins for Kids collects for Christmas causes in Nanaimo

News Bulletin fundraising for Great Nanaimo Toy Drive, Boys and Girls Clubs

Demonstrators, organized by the Public Fishery Alliance, outside the downtown Vancouver offices of Fisheries and Oceans Canada July 6 demand the marking of all hatchery chinook to allow for a sustainable public fishery while wild stocks recover. (Public Fishery Alliance Facebook photo)
Angry B.C. anglers see petition tabled in House of Commons

Salmon fishers demand better access to the healthy stocks in the public fishery

(Hotel Zed/Flytographer)
B.C. hotel grants couple 18 years of free stays after making baby on Valentines Day

Hotel Zed has announced a Kelowna couple has received free Valentines Day stays for next 18 years

Most Read