OTTAWA -- Demand for COVID-19 testing in Ottawa is on the rise, following a sharp rise in new cases at the end of July.

There were 350 new cases declared in the between July 17 and July 31, compared to 95 in the first half of the month. Ottawa Public Health has consistently linked the increase in cases to people who attended indoor gatherings, parties, or work with symptoms early in the month, thus spreading the virus to others.

Since the rise in cases, wait times of up to four hours have been reported at Ottawa's COVID-19 testing centres.

Speaking on CTV Morning Live on Tuesday, Ottawa's associate medical officer of health, Dr. Brent Moloughney, said some people are seeking tests too soon, or for the wrong reasons.

"There are people that may have felt they have been in contact with someone and come immediately for testing but it takes a number of days from when someone's exposed to having enough virus for it to be picked up, should be five days," he said. "Another issue is people who either on their own or they're told they need a test before they can go to work or a gathering and, in those situations, a test is only a moment in time and is not entirely reassuring to be able to start those activities."

In the latter example, Dr. Moloughney said a negative test only shows you were negative at the time you were tested. You may have contracted the virus earlier and it is still incubating, meaning a test wouldn't find, or you may contract it after the test, meaning you could become infectious later on, while believing you're not infected.

"You'd be falsely reassured. Your primary defense to protect other people is distancing, wearing a mask, good hand hygiene, and not going if you have symptoms," he said.

The appropriate time to get a test, Dr. Moloughney said, is if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or about five days after coming into contact with someone with the virus. It is also recommended you self-isolate until you can get a test if you believe you may have been exposed.

There are three testing centres in Ottawa: the COVID-19 assessment centre at the Brewer Arena, and the COVID-19 care clinics on Moodie Drive and Heron Road.

Dr. Joseph Pollard, of the Queensway Carleton Hospital, told CTV Morning Live drive-thru testing centres in Ottawa are a possibility, but he doesn't believe it will work in the Moodie Drive area.

"At this particular facility, it's not appropriate for drive-thru for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the traffic makeup of the area," he said. "I know that Public Health is looking at the demand for drive-thru testing, and they're working towards that, just that it's not available at the moment."

In an email to CTV News, Ottawa Public Health confirmed a strategy to increase testing capacity is in the works.

"A strategy is underway to respond to the increasing demand, and a diversity of service offerings for testing, including drive-thru centres, are being considered," the statement said.

A statement from the Champlain COVID-19 Response Committee (CCRC) said they are working to expand their testing capacity as quickly as possible.

"Together with Ottawa Public Health and Ontario Health, the focus of the region is to expand our capacity as quickly as possible to support the increased demand," the statement said. "Through increased staffing, hours of operation and planning for additional sites, the region continues to adjust the operation to accommodate the increasing demand. We are exploring a number of options to enhance the testing options for our community, and will share more information on this as soon as we can."

The CCRC said 11,163 tests were performed in Ottawa between July 26 and Aug. 3. 

  • July 26: 772 tests at Brewer Arena only
  • July 27: 1,502 total tests at Brewer Arena (703), Moodie Drive (427), and Heron Road (379)
  • July 28: 1,632 total tests at Brewer Arena (822), Moodie Drive (421), and Heron Road (389)
  • July 29: 1,602 total tests at Brewer Arena (802), Moodie Drive (403), and Heron Road (397)
  • July 30: 1,594 total tests at Brewer Arena (815), Moodie Drive (405), and Heron Road (374)
  • July 31: 1,400 total tests at Brewer Arena (665), Moodie Drive (385), and Heron Road (350)
  • Aug. 1: 725 tests at Brewer Arena only
  • Aug. 2: 773 tests at Brewer Arena only
  • Aug. 3: 1,156 total tests at Brewer Arena (745) and Moodie Drive (411), no tests at Heron Road