TORONTO — Ontario Premier Doug Ford says that increased data coming from a new COVID-19 testing strategy unveiled today has prompted him to consider a regional approach to reopening.

Ford has been asked on multiple occasions about the idea and has said it wasn’t on the table, but now he says he’s asking health officials to show him what a regional approach would look like.

Two-thirds of the province’s cases are in the Greater Toronto Area.

Ontario’s new testing strategy includes targeting specific workers such as first responders, LCBO staff and people in businesses with outbreaks, and sometimes bringing mobile testing units to them.

The province has at times struggled to meet its daily testing goals, and is now expanding the list of those who can get tested.

A testing strategy released Friday says the province is testing staff and inmates in some correctional facilities, staff in select hospitals, first responders in Toronto and their families, LCBO workers, all residents and staff in retirement homes and people in long-term care homes for a second time.

The province says that next week community testing will also start in places with a high number of COVID-19 cases, with a van or bus going to affected workplaces, or simply directing employees to go to assessment centres.

Ontario has intended to do 16,000 tests per day throughout May, and while it has met that goal less than half of the time, the numbers have increased in recent days, with 18,525 tests reported today.

Levels dropped sharply once a blitz of nearly all long-term care residents and staff was completed over the long weekend, but they have picked up again in recent days after Ontario relaxed criteria for members of the public to be tested.

Anyone concerned that they may have been exposed to COVID-19 can now get tested, whether or not they have symptoms.

Ford has spoken about testing asymptomatic front-line health-care workers, large workplaces such as food manufacturing facilities, groups such as truck or taxi drivers, and doing a second round of testing in long-term care.

He said mass testing is the province’s best defence against the virus.

Ontario reported 344 new COVID-19 cases Friday, and 41 more deaths. That brings the provincial total to 27,210 cases, which is an increase of 1.3 per cent over the previous day. The total includes 2,230 deaths and 20,983 cases that have been resolved.

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, has said new cases from a round of long-term care testing earlier this month are still coming in, so he’s not sure yet what percentage of the new cases are from the community.

The number of people in hospital with COVID-19 and in intensive care dropped, but the number of people on ventilators rose from 94 to 100.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 29, 2020.

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