OTTAWA -- Ottawa Public Health and the Ottawa Hospital are hoping to expand COVID-19 testing this week for residents of long-term care homes and group homes.

Community paramedics and family doctors will help test Ottawa residents who aren’t able to travel to the COVID-19 Community Assessment Centre at Brewer Arena.

Approximately 7,300 people have been tested at the COVID-19 assessment centre at Brewer Arena since it opened a month ago.

Dr. Andrew Willmore, incident commander for the Champlain Health Region, told reporters on Tuesday afternoon “there are barriers to getting to the Brewer Assessment Centre” for residents of long-term care homes and retirement homes.

“We’re actually working this week, hoping to go live in the next few days, to increase our outreach model using community para-medicines to provide swabbing in long-term care facilities and retirement homes.”

Dr. Willmore says family doctors in the region will assist with the swabbing and providing home care assessments for the vulnerable population.

COVID-19 outbreaks have been declared at 10 long-term care homes and retirement homes in Ottawa.

No need to test all residents

Ottawa’s Associate Medical Officer of Health says there is no need to test all asymptomatic residents for COVID-19 at this point.

Dr. Brent Moloughney told reporters on Tuesday as governments and health officials try to plank the curve, they don’t need to test everyone to get it under control.

“The key that we’re doing in terms of a strategy at the moment is with physical distancing, to reduce that community transmission downwards,” said Dr. Moloughney.

“And of course is to do case and contact management of the cases we’re aware of, particularly in high-risk groups.”

Dr. Moloughney admits the availability of laboratory capacity and swabs limits the number of tests health officials can conduct, but adds efforts are underway to increase capacity.

Ottawa Public Health and the Ontario Government have expanded the criteria for testing patients for COVID-19. Essential workers, health care workers or a household member of a health care worker with COVID-19 symptoms can now be tested.

Dr. Moloughney says when government and health officials look to relax the physical distancing guidelines, the testing strategy may look a little different to identify potential cases of COVID-19.