WINDSOR, ONT. -- Essex-Windsor EMS is prepared to help collect COVID-19 testing samples as the province looks to ramp up its efforts to track the pandemic spread.

In his daily briefing on Tuesday, the Windsor-Essex Medical Officer of Health Dr. Wajid Ahmed, credited local paramedics for their help in collecting test samples from 65 residents at one local long-term care home in response to a COVID-19 outbreak.

“Them stepping up and taking this help and supporting our community, I think it’s a great initiative from them,” Ahmed told reporters.

Nurses and personal support workers have been stretched thin by the crisis. Outbreaks in Windsor-Essex — which have hit nine long-term care homes in the region — have exacerbated already short-staffed facilities.

Paramedics were able to provide an assist over the holiday weekend at the request of the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) because resources were able to be freed up following a drop-off in call volumes, according to Justin Lammers, the deputy chief of Essex-Windsor EMS.

“We were able to do it,” said Lammers in an interview with CTV News. “This is everybody’s fight. This is a community fight. We had a little bit of capacity and we applied it.”

On Tuesday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford told reporters at his daily briefing ,“We now have the staffing resources we need in place” at long-term care (LTC) homes and made mandatory a recommendation made by Ahmed weeks ago in Windsor-Essex that staff at LTC facilities limit work to a single site to avoid the potential spread of COVID-19.

Ford has also pledged to ramp up COVID-19 testing to the provincial capacity of 13,000 tests a day, a number given to the premier by his medical officials.

With the focus on more widespread testing, Lammers expects paramedics will be called to help carry out more specimen collection in the months to come.

“We know Premier Ford has announced that he wants us to be ramping up testing in the province, specifically the vulnerable populations, and that would include our long-term care homes, so that appears to be the trajectory,” said Lammers.

As of 1 p.m. Tuesdy, the WEHCU reports there are seven current outbreaks at long-term care and retirement homes, while 13 people have died of COVID-19 in Windsor-Essex.

A total of 349 cases of the novel coronavirus have been confirmed in the region following 2,589 tests — of which 365 are pending.

There are 30 resolved cases.