Huntsville residents who are asymptomatic will be able to get a COVID-19 test at Shoppers Drug Mart starting Friday.
Premier Doug Ford and Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott made the announcement during the premier’s daily COVID-19 update, which was held at Huntsville’s Shoppers Drug Mart today. Up to 60 pharmacies across the province will be providing testing, with more to be added in the coming weeks.
“We rely on our pharmacists for our flu shots, prescriptions, and important health advice for ourselves and our families. It makes sense to engage them as key partners in delivering more COVID-19 testing,” said Premier Ford. “I have to thank Shoppers Drug Mart, Rexall, and the independent pharmacies who have stepped up in a big way to help expand testing to more people in the province. With everyone pitching in, we are well on our way to reaching our goal of 50,000 tests a day and stopping the spread of COVID-19.”
Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacist and store owner Dana Murdy said she is pleased to have been among the first pharmacies chosen to be included in the expanded service.
“It was a surprise. I’m happy it’s here,” she said.
Murdy said testing at the pharmacy will complement the testing being done by Muskoka paramedics at the Active Living Centre. Shoppers plans to offer an early morning clinic, an afternoon clinic, and an evening clinic on some weekdays, by appointment, with that schedule still to be determined. Anyone who is asymptomatic and would like to have a test done can call the store to book an appointment (705-789-4471).
Shoppers has already been running testing in Alberta, and pharmacies here will be able to draw on that experience.
Murdy reminded residents that flu season is coming and said, “Let’s follow Australia. They had 30,000 cases of flu last year, this year they had 8,000. We can put some of it down to hand washing, isolation, social distancing, but they had a huge spike in people getting their injections. What the flu shot this year will do is dampen down whatever flu we do see so we don’t have confusion—is it flu or is it COVID? It’s as important this year as it ever has been to get your flu shot…that will take a lot of stress off the medical community.”
She said Shoppers is anticipating a 30 per cent increase in the number of people getting the flu vaccine over last year. Last flu season, the Huntsville location did 1,300 flu vaccine injections in store.
Murdy thanked the community for “helping Shoppers get through COVID. It’s been a rough haul for everybody. The community support—picking up the pieces for people who are sick and shut in, picking up the pieces for people who are coming home and bringing them groceries for two weeks. We live in the best place in the world.”
Premier Ford called on Health Canada to make other testing options, in particular saliva testing, widely available to reduce the wait time for results from days to minutes. “Health Canada, we need your help,” he said. Women’s College, Mount Sinai, and University Health Network―Toronto Western Hospital assessment centres will be offering saliva testing this week with more assessment centres to be added in the future.
Parry Sound-Muskoka MP Scott Aitchison said that his party continues to advocate on behalf of the provinces, and “we are also pushing to make sure that Trudeau and his health minister are redoubling their efforts at Health Canada to make sure that every tool at our disposal is safe and approved and whatever they’ve got to do to ramp up those efforts so we can get tests done faster but also of course support them with the lab work as well.”
He echoed an earlier comment by Minister Elliott—who said, “We must not let our guard down”—and urged people to continue to follow control measures. “Whether this is a blip or a little surge or a second wave or something that requires another lockdown, really is up to us. Follow the health protocols. Wear your mask…it’s a simple thing to do that helps not just our neighbours but helps us get this country up and running again in a safe and healthy way.”
MPP Norm Miller said that he had spoken to the premier’s office about testing in Huntsville a few weeks ago when the health team was shutting down the local assessment centre. “I think we’re about the only one not in a real hotspot, so I’m pleased,” he said of the testing option at Shoppers in Huntsville. “My office has reached out to other pharmacies to let them know how they apply because I would love to see every town and village in the riding have a pharmacy that is able to do testing and thereby take a lot of pressure off [assessment centres and hospitals].”
He reiterated that people should not become complacent. “It’s all in our hands. It’s undetermined where we are headed…do your part, take it seriously, because the last thing the premier wants to do is to have to shut businesses down and bring tighter controls. We all want to see people getting back to normal as much as possible.”
Mayor Karin Terziano said that she is also pleased to have additional testing capacity in Huntsville. “The fact that they’ve [paramedics]been doing almost 200 tests per day means that there is a huge need for it.”
Huntsville Council is watching what is happening closely, she added. The Town recently opened the pool and one rink at the Canada Summit Centre, but with an increase in cases recently Council may “press the pause button” on reopening community halls, she said. Terziano said she’s also been in touch with the local trustee at Trillium Lakelands District School Board about high school students congregating in groups and without masks during their lunch hour. “It’s concerning,” she said.
The province will be releasing more details about its Keeping Ontarians Safe plan in the coming days.
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