The acting medical officer of health for the Northwestern Health Unit, Dr. Ian Gemmill, says testing is key, as he monitors an outbreak of the coronavirus at Thunder Bay's regional hospital.

"It's the front end of public health practice. If we don't know where the disease is, we don't know how to deal with it," he said, during yesterday's weekly media briefing.

While contact tracing tests individuals, who may have come into contact with somebody who has tested positive with the coronavirus, surveillance testing takes samples from the population at large, in order to get a clearer picture of where the virus may or may not be found.

As the economy reopens, public health experts and the provincial government are hoping to use extensive testing, so they can help prevent a second wave of the virus. The concern came a step closer to reality earlier this week, after a visiting doctor tested positive for the coronavirus. 

In her comments yesterday, Health Minister Christine Elliott noted four key factors, when considering going to Stage 2 of the reopening, or even a regional approach:

  • the number of new cases needs to be going down
  • sufficient capacity in our hospitals for a surge in new admissions
  • adequate testing
  • contact tracing

From his perspective, Kenora-Rainy River MPP Greg Rickford noted health care resources in northern Ontario, including First Nation communities, don't have the same capacity as their counterparts in southern Ontario, so he wanted to find a careful balance.

Gemmill noted patients going to Thunder Bay for treatment can expect proper screening and infection control, as staff at the regional hospital deal with a case of COVID-19 among their staff.

For more information:

Reopening update from Queen's Park