No new COVID-19 cases as testing ramps up

A driver picks up a patient after surgery at the Perth and Smiths Falls District Hospital on Tuesday. jpg, BT

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SMITHS FALLS – As the pace of COVID-19 testing picks up in the area, the assessment centre here has expanded its criteria for testing, but is still not open to walk-ins.

Effective Thursday, the testing centre, located at the Perth and Smiths Falls District Hospital, “will expand their effort to reach more people requiring COVID-19 testing,” the hospital said on its website.

The news came as the region saw a full day with no change in its COVID-19 status.

On Thursday afternoon, the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit reported 336 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the area, including 49 deaths, based on data collected at 4 p.m. Wednesday. The number continued to lag behind the provincial count by five; the province listed 341 cases, also unchanged from the previous day.

The vast majority of local COVID-19 fatalities, or 46, have been in long-term care, while three have been in the community.

Seven per cent of cases tested locally came back positive, with 4,643 tests done to date, up from 4,556 tests the previous day. Fifteen per cent of cases locally have been fatal. The median age of deaths is 86; the youngest patient to die was 56, while the oldest was 100.

The number of tests done locally has ramped up since Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott last week expanded testing guidelines to include anyone with symptoms.

When the Smiths Falls testing centre first opened about two months ago, it was the first of its kind in the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark area, and a referral from a family doctor or other primary care provider was necessary in order to get an appointment.

Now, the Smiths Falls site will offer appointments to patients who have completed the online self-assessment at the COVID-19 Ministry of Health website (covid-19.ontario.ca/self-assessment/) and been directed for further assessment and testing as necessary.

“Please note that the assessment center drive-through is still by appointment only,” the hospital said.

While anyone with COVID-19 symptoms is allowed to make an appointment at the centre, the health unit is “strongly encouraging” that certain people be given priority for assessment there.

Those given priority include: Essential workers (working directly with the public), health-care workers or household members of health-care workers, pregnant women in their third trimester, returning travellers, and people in close contact with (who live with, provided care for, or spent extensive time with) someone with a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19.

Anybody looking to get tested at the centre is still required to call (613)-283-2330 ext. 1401 to schedule an appointment. The phones are answered from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

The assessment centre is located outside the hospital’s main entrance on Elmsley Street North. Patients will drive up to the main entrance and remain in their vehicles while an in-vehicle assessment is completed.

The region’s other testing centre, located at the Memorial Centre in Brockville, opened not long after the Smiths Falls location opened, and is now a full-scale walk-in clinic with no appointments required. That centre has since reduced its hours of operation after previously taking in fewer patients than initially expected, but is still open to anyone experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.

Anyone who suspects they may have symptoms of the virus is encouraged to contact the Leeds, Grenville, Lanark District Health Unit at 1-800-660-5853 ext. 2222 or Telehealth Ontario at (866) 797-0000 or Toll-free TTY at (866) 797-0007.

Further information is available at https://www.ontario.ca/page/get-medical-advice-telehealth-ontario.

Members of the public can also call their own primary care provider for advice and guidance, the hospital added.

(With files from Ronald Zajac)

sbedford@postmedia.com

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