To test or not to test, that is the question. Well, the province finally has a decisive answer as it is now urging all residents with any symptoms to seek out COVID-19 testing in Ontario. In a media briefing on May 21, the province's top doctor admitted past advice has not been clear enough.
Ontario's advice on testing has shifted over time as the pandemic has progressed.
In the early weeks, the focus was placed on people with severe symptoms and those who are considered high risk. At this time, there were numerous reports of people with mild symptoms being turned away.
It took until May 14, nearly two months after the province first declared an emergency, for Health Minister Christine Elliott to finally announce that everybody with apparent symptoms should get tested.
And when asked about whether people know they can now get tested for milder symptoms, Ontario's Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Williams admitted on Thursday that the provincial advice has not been as clear as it could have been.
"Are the public aware? Does the public know how to [get tested]? Is some of our messaging not clear? Is some of our messaging confusing?" Dr. Williams asked rhetorically at his May 21 media briefing.
"So we have to make sure it's consistent... Sometimes... the consistent messaging does not get put through, and different members of the public run into some obstruction, saying 'I thought you said, and this said...'"
He continued: "We opened up on the weekend, we didn't get a lot [of people] coming out, perhaps [due to] the long weekend. But perhaps our messaging, our communication, wasn't as clear as it should be."
Earlier on Thursday, Premier Doug Ford promised that Ontario will start testing even asymptomatic people for the virus, possibly as early as next week.
Minister Elliott, who stood beside Ford as he made his statement on Thursday, is still advising people with symptoms of COVID-19 to be tested.
And Dr. Williams stressed on Thursday that anyone presenting with apparent symptoms should now get checked out.
He continued: "If they do have any symptoms of COVID... the wide range of new symptoms, we want you to be able to go and get assessed and to be able to access that at the right time and in the right way."
Further to that point, he advised concerned residents to first check the provincial online self-assessment tool and to keep track of how busy assessment centres are so they can avoid crowds as they seek testing.
Poorly-distanced crowds at assessment centres are hardly going to make things better, after all.