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Ontario Needs a Proactive COVID-19 Strategy that Includes Sentinel Testing

(Image created by Russell Tate)

We are writing to express our concern over reopening Ontario’s economy before public health protections are more fully established. Public health experts have sounded the alarm, stating that reopening the economy with only limited testing – rather than proactive sentinel testing of asymptomatic at-risk populations – is an unnecessary risk that could set Ontario back in its recovery efforts. They recognize that we can’t be sure of whether Ontario is ready to reopen, because the province is neither testing widely enough among key vulnerable populations nor transparently releasing comprehensive population status data to the public.

We’ve known for months that COVID-19 patients may be asymptomatic. Failure to conduct proactive sentinel testing of asymptomatic essential workers and vulnerable populations could be putting these communities – and the broader population – at high risk. Media reports show at-risk essential workers, from personal support workers to taxi drivers, dying preventable deaths from a lack of COVID-19 protections and testing. At the same time, outbreaks have been reported in congregate settings from mental health facilities and shelters, to group homes and farm worker housing. Three weeks after the announcement of a 'COVID-19 Action Plan for Vulnerable People' there is still no plan for sentinel testing, no public reporting of outbreaks and cases for these populations, and no guidance for health and social service providers working in congregate settings or with vulnerable at-risk populations.

We are heartened to hear that testing for symptomatic individuals – promised three weeks ago and overdue even then – will now be expanded to “vulnerable populations, including those in retirement homes and other shared living spaces like shelters and group homes”.  But we remain concerned that this reactive strategy will not prevent the asymptomatic spread of COVID-19.

The province will only have a complete picture of the pandemic’s impact by systematically and proactively testing all people living in group settings and the workers in those and other high risk settings.

We urge the province to act now to protect communities who continue to be deeply impacted by this pandemic.

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Signed by 35 organizations and 210 individuals.

  1.  Addictions & Mental Health Ontario
  2. AdvantAge ontario
  3. Algoma Nurse Practitioner Led Clinic
  4. Alliance for Healthier Communities
  5. Brain injury Association Peterborough Region
  6. Bridges Community Health Centre
  7. Brock Mission
  8. CHC of Northumberland
  9. Citizens Alive
  10. Davenport Perth Neighbourhood and Community Health Centre
  11. East End CHC
  12. Flemingdon Health Centre
  13. Grand Bend Area CHC
  14. Hesperus Fellowship Community of Ontario
  15. Lanark community programs
  16. LKGroup Inc
  17. London InterCommunity Health Centre
  18. Noojmowin-teg health centre
  19. NPAO
  20. Ottawa Senior Pride Network
  21. Peterborough 360 Degree Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic
  22. Quest Community Health Centre
  23. Regent Park CHC
  24. Seaway Valley Community Health Centre
  25. South East Ottawa Community Health Centre
  26. Stonegate Community Health Centre
  27. The Healing Collective
  28. Toronto Board of Health
  29. United Jewish People's Order
  30. Vibrant Healthcare Alliance
  31. WellFort Community Health Services
  32. Western Ottawa Community Resource Centre
  33. Windsor Essex Community Health Centre
  34. Women's Health in Women's Hands CHC
  35. Woolwich Community Health Centre
Thursday, May 21, 2020
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