COVID-19: London, Ontario. testing capacity feeling the pressure amid rising cases, Omicron – London | The Canadian News

The London, Ontario region has seen a rebound in COVID-19 testing over the past two weeks amid a spike in cases and growing concerns about the Omicron variant, resulting in reduced capacity and Longer wait times for those looking to get a swab.

As the number of local cases has skyrocketed, the seven-day regional average stood at 64.7 on Wednesday, down from 19.3 two weeks before Dec. 1, COVID-19 testing locations have experienced an increase in demand.

The most recent data from the health unit shows that at least 8,720 people underwent tests between December 5 and 11, the most tests in a single week since May. It’s also an increase of nearly 1,800 people over the previous week, and roughly 2,500 more compared to two weeks earlier.

“We recognize that testing capacity in the region is overloaded. Our partners overseeing the testing capacity are aware of this, ”said Dr. Alex Summers, the region’s acting medical health officer, during Thursday’s press conference.

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“Efforts are being made to add additional capacity. However, it will be a challenge and we recognize that frustration. “

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With the closure of the Oakridge Arena testing center in mid-July, the city has a mass testing clinic up and running, located at the Carling Heights Optimist Community Center on Elizabeth Street.

The center, which is operated by the London Health Sciences Center (LHSC), booked up to five days in advance, but had no spots available until Thursday afternoon. The facility has tested an average of 501 people per day over the past seven days, compared to an average of 434 two weeks ago.

“We’ve definitely seen a significant increase in those who are being screened and seeking to be screened at the Carling screening center, but generally in Middlesex-London and throughout Ontario,” said Dr. Adam Dukelow, LHSC Chief Medical Officer. , in an interview Thursday.

“This is obviously related to the increase in cases in our community and throughout the province, and it is also related to the Omicron variant.”

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Ontario Will Probably See' Toughest Wave 'Of Pandemic As Omicron Cases Rise'

COVID-19: Ontario Likely To See ‘Toughest Wave’ Of Pandemic As Omicron Cases Rise

COVID-19: Ontario Likely To See ‘Toughest Wave’ Of Pandemic As Omicron Cases Rise

The Carling Heights center, he said, has been “consistently” reaching its maximum of 600 tests, and that further increases in testing capacity are limited by an already reduced health care workforce.

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“As testing needs increase, we are also committed with our health unit to increase vaccination of the third dose … In addition, our hospitals are quite busy and we anticipate being busier in the coming days and weeks,” he said.

Plus, he says, healthcare providers are simply exhausted after 21 months of overtime and extra shifts, adding to staffing challenges. In some cases, providers who had planned to retire before the pandemic began, but stayed behind to help, have left the profession.

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“We are looking for creative solutions. Students are being hired to work, and a host of other elements are being made across all health sectors to meet the need, ”Dukelow said.

The possibility of reopening the Oakridge Arena assessment center “has come up from time to time,” Dukelow said, however, noting that the organization is currently focused on increasing vaccination rates and increasing capacity at Carling.

“For now, we have space and equipment. We just need people, ”he said of the Carling site.

“Hopefully we won’t get to a point where we also need to open a second testing site, especially since there are now rapid tests to participate in the whole process as well.”

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Click to Play Video: 'Ontario Expands Rapid COVID Testing Strategy in Light of Omicron'

Ontario Expands Rapid COVID Testing Strategy In Light Of Omicron

Ontario Expands Rapid COVID Testing Strategy In Light Of Omicron

It’s not just Carling Heights that is feeling the test capacity decline.

Londoners who turn to one of the alternatives offered on the Carling Heights reservation website also face a week-long wait to be cleaned.

Starting Thursday afternoon, the My health The testing clinic on Wharncliffe Road North was booked until December 23, while DynacareThe Dundas Street East facility did not have appointments available until December 22.

Similary, LifeLabsThe Fanshawe Park Road facility, open only on Thursdays and Sundays, did not have spaces available until December 23.

At least 15 City Pharmacies Offer COVID-19 TestingHowever, what is offered is wildly inconsistent and varies by pharmacy, some offer tests only for asymptomatic people and others only provide rapid antigen tests.

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Those symptomatic or in close contact with a positive case and who cannot be tested should be isolated, says the health unit.

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Demand is being driven in part by the highly contagious Omicron variant, which the province’s COVID-19 Scientific Advisory Board said Thursday is already dominant in Ontario.

The variant, which according to estimates in the warning table infects 6.1 times more individuals than the Delta variant, has doubled cases every two to four days in other countries, including the United Kingdom, Denmark and South Africa, where it was originally detected. .

Without further intervention, the scientific table model suggests that Ontario is poised to see more than 10,000 new cases daily by Christmas if stricter public health measures are not implemented.

The first confirmed case of Omicron in the London and Middlesex region occurred last week. Since then, the health unit has stated that it will treat all positive COVID-19 cases as if it were Omicron.

At least 13 local schools were closed as of Thursday as a result of COVID-19, with some closures potentially linked to Omicron and numerous close contacts.

Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of the province’s science board, said Thursday that he hoped to dispel claims that the Omicron variant was less severe than Delta.

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“It causes a serious illness,” he said. “Hospital rates have increased in South Africa, where it was first established. It’s not just a case of sneezing. “

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To fight the new variant, the province announced Wednesday that all adults over the age of 18 would be eligible to book an appointment for a COVID-19 booster shot starting December 20.

Evidence suggests that two doses of an mRNA vaccine are approximately 35 percent effective against Omicron 14 weeks after receiving a second dose, according to the scientific table. With a third dose, the effectiveness increases to 75 percent in the first month.

During Thursday’s press conference, Dr. Alex Summers implored residents to get the booster, saying it will play an important role, particularly for those over 50.

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Ontario ICU patients could exceed 600 if no additional action is taken'

COVID-19: Ontario ICU patients could exceed 600 if no additional action is taken

COVID-19: Ontario ICU patients could exceed 600 if no additional action is taken

Summers said the health unit was working to accommodate the sudden surge in eligible residents (the change in eligibility was previously expected on Jan.4) but emphasized that, as with the testing centers, staffing remains a challenge.

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“The Middlesex-London Health Unit has added 30,000 appointments since last Friday, between Friday and January 13,” he said.

Earl Nichols’ vaccination site, which will reopen on January 6, is now taking appointments, and the Caradoc Community Center and Agriplex are working to expand their operations.

“However, I want to moderate expectations,” Summers said. “Things are going very fast and it takes a town to run a vaccination clinic.”

“We have immunizers, but we only have a limited number of immunizers. We have administrative support, but we only have a limited amount of administrative support. “

In addition to mass vaccination clinics, COVID-19 injections are also being distributed in local pharmacies, primary care settings and in CF Masonville Place. The pop-up clinic treated 417 people Wednesday, Summers said.

Click to Play Video: 'Ontario Begins Christmas COVID Test Bombardment with Provincewide Pop-ups'

Ontario Begins Christmas Bombing of COVID Tests with Province-Wide Pop-ups

Ontario Begins Christmas Bombing of COVID Tests with Province-Wide Pop-ups

Premier Doug Ford also announced capacity limits for venues of more than 1,000 people, along with a Christmas test blitz to distribute two million quick tests to emerging sites in high-traffic environments such as libraries, shopping malls, transit centers and liquor stores.

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On Thursday night, the LCBO said six London stores would begin distributing the tests from Friday.

The province notes that “additional pop-ups will be added, including participating LCBO locations, once confirmed by individual locations with the weekly updated website. No appointment will be required. “

– with files from Jacquelyn LeBel and The Canadian Press

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