COVID Update 31/03/2020

Bottom line – Here are the current guidelines for primary care to use when screening patients for referral to assessment centres for testing:

As usual, only symptomatic people should be tested.

  • Symptomatic health care workers and first responders (a health care worker is anyone providing service within an institutional, community or front line context).
  • Symptomatic vulnerable populations (people living in shelters, people from remote, isolated and rural communities). 
  • Symptomatic close contacts with a confirmed or probable case (confirmed cases have tested positive, probable cases have been referred for testing and are awaiting results).  

All health care workers and first responders will have their swabs expedited for rapid results. 

These guidelines will be confirmed or updated on Friday, April 3, 2020.


These recommendations are based on guidance issued by the MOH on testing in resource constrained conditions. That document can be found here.

Our current testing strategies are constrained by a shortage of PPE, swabs and a significant backlog in testing capacity. 

Public Health continues to do contact tracing on all people who have had tests and are awaiting results.  We look forward to the results of the centralized, coordinated efforts province wide to procure more PPE and arrange enhanced testing capacity.  When we have those supplies, our testing strategies will change dramatically. 

(Please note, Public Health Services in Hamilton facilitates local testing guideline decisions with input from hospitals, primary care , laboratory and other core services, guided by provincial policy. Ontario Public Health best practice guides local public health authorities to make decisions which are contextually sensitive.  Guidelines may then vary from region to region.)