Dozens attend pop-up COVID-19 testing centre, officials plan more in the future
KITCHENER -- A pop-up testing site for COVID-19 in Waterloo Region has been successful after its first three sessions, meaning more could be on the way.
Officials say the site at the KW Urban Native Wigwam Project on Frederick Street in Kitchener, was open to anyone who showed up, but it was mainly geared to the First Nations community in the region.
A small notice posted at an apartment building in Kitchener prompted Dee Constant to show up at the testing site, even though she had no symptoms.
"It was wonderful. I parked on the road, there was only a couple of people ahead of me, so I wasn't worried about the crowds," she says.
The site was open for testing on May 13, 20 and 23.
Health officials have been concerned about COVID-19 in the First Nations community because of higher rates of health issues like diabetes.
They acknowledge that many are apprehensive about the health care system.
"There was some obvious fear for going out and getting tested at regular places, but they feel like they didn't have a whole lot of access," explains Lee Ann Hunt with the KW Urban Native Wigwam Project.
"They wanted a place that was culturally sensitive and appropriate, safe."
Doctors and nurses staffed the testing site over the course of the three days it ran.
About 60 people were tested, including some with mild symptoms. Those tests were sent to the province's COVID-19 testing labs for processing.
"Those three clinics were open to everyone," explains Dr. Sharon Bal, COVID-19 regional non-hospital lead for Waterloo and Wellington.
"There were conversations that nobody would be turned away and nobody would be asked about their status."
Discussions are underway for testing sites like this to pop up again.
Dr. Bal says that future pop-ups will take into account a number of different factors.
"Something that is centrally accessible again, with the medical parameters in mind for physical distancing," she says.
Dee Constant says she got tested because her husband has cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy, and she wanted to ensure their safety at home.
She was surprised when she received a call from public health officials telling her she had tested positive.
"You're just not prepared when you are being careful," she says.
"This is the exact reason why people need to get tested because COVID is not following the rules. There's no, you only worry if you've got symptoms."
Her husband is now being tested for the virus, too.
There are 1,089 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Waterloo Region, where public health officials opened up testing to the general public less than two weeks ago.
If you're not sure how to get tested, it begins with a self-assessment online.
Anyone who is worried that they may have been exposed to COVID-19 can self-refer to one of the region's testing and assessment centres.