Only those at highest risk are being asked to seek COVID-19 testing through Hamilton’s assessment centres.
Local health officials say the new “guidance” is in line with provincial direction, and is a recognition that demand for testing is outstripped by available resources.
Hamilton’s assessment centres are currently testing about 1,000 people each day, while requests for testing have spiked to about twice that number, resulting in major delays.
On Monday, Hamilton Public Health says its phone lines received a one-day high of 3,000 calls from people asking for COVID-19 testing.
A joint statement issued by the City of Hamilton, Hamilton Health Sciences and St. Joseph’s Healthcare says Hamilton residents should only seek testing at assessment centres if they:
– are showing COVID-19 symptoms;
– have been exposed to a confirmed case of the virus, as informed by their public health unit or exposure notification through the COVID Alert app;
– are a resident of, or working in, a setting that has a COVID-19 outbreak, as identified and informed by their local public health unit; and
– are eligible for testing as part of a targeted testing initiative directed by the Ministry of Health or the Ministry of Long-Term Care.
The health-care partners say those who don’t have symptoms or fit into the priority testing criteria are considered low-risk and are asked not to seek testing at this point in time.
A number of changes have been made to try to address the increase in demand, including an additional testing centre at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamiton’s West 5th campus and additional hours at the East End Assessment Centre.
The city also moved to an online booking system on Thursday, and by the end of the day, had booked more than 1,800 appointments online.