Positive coronavirus tests go unreported in Ontario by the hundreds

A reporting error has led to hundreds of COVID-19 positive cases from one lab not being not being relayed to 12 different local public health agencies.

In Ontario, a reporting error has led to hundreds of COVID-19 positive cases from one lab not being not being relayed to 12 different local public health agencies where the actual cases reside, according to CTV News.

After a "thorough investigation" it was discovered that COVID-19 test results from one provincial lab were not reported back to the proper various health units where the actual tests were conducted.

The William Osler Health System was the lab used to conduct the tests which came mostly from the drive-thru assessment centre at Etobicoke General Hospital, Ontario Health confirmed. The tests were that of people from the Toronto, Peel Region and York Region.

Those who were tested could view their results online and contact tracing will now be conducted by public health units for people who were tested within the last 14 days.

"Patients who tested positive more than 14 days ago will also be contacted by public health units to enable contact tracing and case management. Many of the cases from more than 14 days ago would now be considered resolved," read a statement released by Ontario Health.

"The provincial network has confirmed with all laboratories that there is a clear and documented understanding of who is informing local public health units to ensure timely case investigation and contact tracing," the statement continued. "All parties are working to ensure this situation does not happen again, and steps taken to prevent re-occurrence."

"This is a huge problem," said Dr. Isaac Bogoch in an interview with CP24 on Tuesday morning. Dr. Bogoch is an infectious disease expert and said that such an error could result in many new active cases of COVID-19 in the Greater Toronto Area. "No one would be surprised (if) between April and maybe perhaps a week ago, this is responsible for a lot of the cases in those affected areas."

A strong level of communication between public health agencies, the labs and patients is "key" to reducing the spread of COVID-19, urged Dr. Bogoch.

"If someone is positive, you've got to know that they are positive right away and follow up with the contact tracing of all of those people that were in contact with the positive case," said Dr. Bogoch. "People need to know that they should be physically distancing from others (and) where to go for help if they need help."

"Many people don't have the privilege of physically distancing themselves if they live in a multi-generational home or if there is just a lot of people in the house in a small place, so perhaps they might need assistance with that front as well," said Dr. Bogoch, noting that many people who are infected will also be living with family or room mates who will be exposed as well. "With a communication breakdown like this, the whole thing falls apart."

Patrick Brown, Mayor of Brampton, said that mistakes like this aren't surprising given the current state of exhausted hospital resources amid the pandemic. "Our hospitals are at capacity. I look at Osler Health System, they are at 90 per cent right now and they are dealing with a pandemic at the same time," said Brown. "It shouldn't happen, we need to be better at communication, but the fact that our hospitals are (at) such high capacity right now, mistakes are bound to happen."

Brown called the mistake a learning experience for all parties involved. "This is a breakdown of communication and obviously it's disappointing and I think the ministry and the hospitals and public health will learn from this," said Brown. "At the end of the day, I'm thankful for everyone working in the hospitals because I know they are doing their best under difficult conditions."