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Ontario's COVID test processing dips on Tuesdays, here's why

On a recent Friday a record 76,742 tests were reported processed compared to 44,802 tests on a Tuesday
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In its daily updates, Ontario Health provides data on the latest COVID-19 cases, and that includes the testing done by more than 40 labs across the province. 

As recently as May 2020, the province was reporting fewer than 10,000 tests processed in 24 hours, which meant severe delays and a low capacity for testing even for those with symptoms of COVID. 

On Friday, the province reported a record 76,472 tests processed in 24 hours. 

However, even with the capacity to process 60,000 to 70,000 tests in 24 hours, the province’s public health labs are not consistently processing that many test results. 

According to an email from Ontario Health to Village Media, the fluctuation in tests processed is a direct result of how many specimens are sent in. 

“As the volume of specimens collected at assessment centres, long-term care homes, and other specimen collection sites often drops over the weekend, the number of tests processed drops as well,” stated the email from Ontario Health. “We’ll often see a higher number of tests processed than specimens received on a Saturday, for example, as the labs are still processing Friday’s specimens received.” 

Earlier this month, Public Health Ontario reported 72,900 tests processed in its report on Saturday, Jan. 9, 62,308 tests processed in its Sunday, Jan. 10 report, 46,402 tests processed in its Jan. 11 report, and 44,802 tests processed in its Jan. 12 report. After that, the number of tests processed each day increased from 50,931 on Jan. 13 to 76,742 on Jan. 15.

“On a Tuesday, we may see a lower number of tests processed than specimens received as the labs are processing Monday’s volumes,” stated the email.  “For context, on Saturday, Jan. 9, 36,000 tests were received and 62,000 were processed.” 

The province also reports the number of tests still under investigation or awaiting processing at a lab. Last week that backlog ranged from 28,774 to 66,940. 

“There are always tests in progress,” stated Ontario Health.

As of Friday, Jan. 15, Public Health Ontario has reported 8,791,388 tests processed during the pandemic.