Hospitals in York Region have experienced a spike in swabbing for COVID-19 since late May as Ontario expanded the criteria for testing.
The three assessment centres — Mackenzie Richmond Hill Hospital, Markham Stouffville Hospital and Southlake Regional Health Centre — swabbed more than 4,200 people for the novel coronavirus in the last week of May, public health data shows.
It was twice as many COVID-19 tests as the week before.
On May 25 alone, the centres swabbed a total of 672 people for the virus — 353 more tests than the previous day — marking the largest single-day jump in testing in the region.
The upsurge occurred a few days after the province started to expand its testing guidance to include a broader range of symptoms, as Ontario had reportedly fallen short of its daily testing target.
The upward trend in coronavirus swabbing has continued into June as the province moved ahead to loosen up restrictions and eventually opened up testing for almost everyone on May 29.
Testing is now available for anyone who experiences at least one symptom of COVID-19 and those who are asymptomatic but concerned about exposure, according to York Region.
Four days after the announcement, the assessment centres collectively conducted 846 tests for the virus on June 2, the highest number of daily COVID-19 tests in the region.
The interactive graphs shows the numbers of tests conduced in York Region every day from March 14 to June 5 and presents the numbers of the daily COVID-19 cases during the same period of time.
Hover your cursor or click on any point of the lines to see the specific numbers. The blue line represents the numbers of COVID-19 tests and the yellow line represents the numbers of confirmed positive COVID-19 cases.
At the same time, the region saw a hike in positive COVID-19 cases at the beginning of June.
The region reported 52 new cases on the third day of June, the highest daily increase since April 24, according to public health data.
The new case counts fell back down again afterward, the graph shows.
All three hospitals, which have been affected to a varying degree, have had plans in place to adjust to the growing demand for testing in the community.
The interactive chart below demonstrates how many coronavirus swabs have been done by each of the three assessment centres every day.
Press the “play” button in the lowerleft corner to pause the animation and click on any date on the X-axisto see the numbers of tests conducted by each assessment centre on the chosen day.
As of June 5, more than 24,000 coronavirus tests have been conducted in York Region, close to half of which were done in Mackenzie Richmond Hill Hospital.
“Our tireless team has gone above and beyond to accommodate and manage the increase in daily volumes and have maintained flexibility in our capacity to test each day,” Christina Cindric with Mackenzie Health wrote in an email.
Mackenzie Health has relocated its assessment centre to accommodate the increased volumes starting June 8 and the residents can access the centre via a dedicated entrance near the A-wing of the Richmond Hill hospital.
While the assessment has not experienced capacity issues, it might not be able to add more staff in the future as the hospital plans for a gradual return to normal, Cindric said.
Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket has swabbed more than 8,500 people for the coronavirus from mid-March to June 5, data shows.
“We’re managing well,” spokesperson Kathryn Perrier said. “ … and currently have sufficient supplies to meet the demand.”
But the increase in swabbing has resulted in longer wait time for the test results, which are expected to be ready online within two to four days on average after testing, she noted.
Meanwhile, the Newmarket hospital is preparing to open a second field tent as part of the assessment centre.
The Markham Stouffville Hospital has tested more than 5,000 people as of June 7, the lowest number among the three centres so far.
Roughly one in ten persons who were swabbed at the 329-bed hospital tested positive, the hospital data suggests.
“So far we have had adequate supply,” said Rebecca Mackenzie, spokesperson for the hospital.
She noted the hospital has expanded opening hours in order to meet the increasing demand.
STORY BEHIND THE STORY
There has been a noticeable jump in COVID-19 test numbers in York Region and reporter Sheila Wang reached out to public health officials and all assessment centres to find out why the demand for testing has suddenly gone up and how they have been coping.