OTTAWA -- Ottawa Public Health is exploring ways to expand COVID-19 testing capacity for residents to be tested for novel coronavirus, including mobile options.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches says Ottawa Public Health is in constant contact with health care partners that are running the testing centres and laboratories about how to “increase the options for people to be tested.”

“My first recommendation is for people to call their primary care provider,” said Dr. Etches during Wednesday’s Council meeting, noting many family doctors may be able to provide that service.

Dr. Etches noted Ottawa Inner City Health offers mobile testing for shelters and congregate care settings, and Ottawa Paramedics have been providing mobile services for COVID-19 testing. The medical officer of health says another mobile provider is operating in Ottawa.

“I expect the options will continue to expand. We want to match the testing capacity to where the demand is, so this is part of the conversation and learning from the testing that’s happening,” said Dr. Etches.

“We know that some workplaces, for instance, are going to need on-site testing to make sure everyone in the workplace is tested if we detect some concerns. So, many different options are being pursued.”

The medical officer of health says announcements on new testing capacity will be announced in the “near future.”

Councillors Tim Tierney and Rawlson King noted their wards have higher rates of COVID-19, but the COVID-19 testing centres are not located in the area.

Councillor Matthew Luloff noted he would like to see a testing centre in the east end so residents wouldn’t have to travel to one of the COVID-19 Care Clinics in Ottawa.

Data provided by Ottawa Public Health shows fewer than 500 COVID-19 tests were conducted each day between May 17 and 25. Dr. Etches told reporters that number is only part of the testing conducted each day in Ottawa and eastern Ontario.

On Sunday, the Ontario Government announced any Ontarian who wants to be tested for COVID-19 can be tested for the virus. Ottawa Public Health says people can present for testing at the COVID-19 Community Assessment Centre at Brewer Arena and two Care Clinics in Ottawa.

Dr. Etches told Council the new testing criteria has resulted in an increase in volume at the Assessment Centre at Brewer Arena.

“The partners that run the assessment centres and the testing network are prioritizing people who have symptoms, people who may have had more high risked exposure,” said Dr. Etches about how health officials are handling the increased demand.

Testing one part of curving COVID-19 cases

The medical officer of health told Council that testing alone won’t get Ottawa, Ontario and Canada out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We must think about testing as something that is like us running behind the virus, trying to catch up,” said Dr. Etches.

“And what we can do in the first place to prevent infections from happening is really important.”

Dr. Etches says Ottawa Public Health is working on increasing access to testing, while working with the community to provide information on how to prevent COVID-19 infection.