Ontario Rolls Out COVID-19 Fall Preparedness Plan

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The provincial government introduced the COVID-19 preparedness plan this week as we enter the colder season and could face the pandemic’s second wave.

The first instalment of the plan focuses on a call out to Ontarians to get a flu shot. The province is investing $70 million to launch the largest flu immunization campaign in Ontario’s history and has ordered 5.1 million flu vaccine doses. It’s estimated that’s 700,000 more flu vaccine units than what was used in 2019. The aggressive immunization campaign aims to build capacity in emergency departments across the province by lowering hospital visits and allowing healthcare professionals to focus on COVID patient surges.

Another pillar of the plan is to decrease wait times at testing centres across the province. In a separate announcement this week, the province unveiled its plan to add 60 pharmacies across Ontario to its COVID-19 testing sites beginning this Friday.  If you are asymptomatic and need to be tested, you will be able to obtain a swab test by appointment only at the following participating drug stores:

  • Shoppers Drug Mart
  • Rexall
  • Independent pharmacies

More details on the specific locations will be released this coming Friday. 

Saliva Tests

The province also announced they will be trying out saliva COVID testing this week in hospitals. The first three hospitals to do the trials will be the Women's College Hospital, the University Health Network and Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. If the tests prove to be effective, this could offer another less invasive testing format to use on children and others who can't tolerate the nasal swabs.  

Given the size and complexity of the preparedness plan, the province says it will release all details over several coming days and will also include progress updates on the plan’s ongoing implementation.

The preparedness plan focuses on six key areas:

  1. Maintaining strong public health measures including continued expansion of testing and casing contact management
  2. Implementing largest flu immunization campaign in Ontario’s history
  3. Quickly identifying, managing and preventing COVID outbreaks
  4. Accelerating efforts to reduce health service backlogs 
  5. Preparing for surges in COVID cases
  6. Recruiting and retaining retaining and supporting healthcare workers while continuing to engage families and caregivers

The government reminds us the best defence against COVID continues to be taking precautions like staying home, washing our hands often, and wearing masks in public.