Kitchener drive-thru COVID-19 testing site to reopen by appointment only on Thursday
KITCHENER -- Kitchener's drive-thru COVID-19 testing site will reopen on Thursday, but people will need to book an appointment to get a test.
Anyone who needs a test should go online, pick a time slot and register with their name and health card.
The site was closed down early on Wednesday morning after staff reportedly faced verbal abuse and threats of violence.
A spokesperson for Grand River Hospital, which runs the site, said that the issue was compounded by traffic issues along the streets around the testing site.
Long wait times and lineups have created tension around COVID-19 testing as more people look to get tested amid fears of a second wave.
Some people arrived at the drive-thru site as early as 2 a.m. in order to secure a place there. Dozens of cars lined up Wednesday morning, and the line's capacity was full by 7 a.m. Staff don't start testing until 15 minutes after then.
By around 8:30 a.m., the site had closed for the day. Waterloo regional police posted about the closure on Twitter, asking for people to be patient and avoid the area.
Police said there were no arrests, but they did assist with setting up barricades.
Thirty minutes later, the hospital tweeted about the closure as well, citing "safety concerns."
Everyone signing up for a COVID-19 test starting Thursday will need to fill out a separate pre-registration form, the Grand River Hospital said in a tweet. Only people who have pre-registered will be able to get a test.
Those who were still in line would still be tested, Grand River Hospital said. By 11 a.m., the site, normally backed up for hours at a time, was completely empty.
The difficulties of getting tested are not unique to Waterloo Region, as thousands of people face the same hurdles daily around Ontario. The calls for more accessible testing has led Premier Doug Ford to partner with pharmacies in order to allow more people to get tested.
On Wednesday, Ford announced that 60 pharmacies would be offering testing soon. None of them are in Waterloo Region.
The tests will be by appointment only for people without symptoms.
St. Mary's General Hospital said Wednesday that people should only self-refer to the assessment centre if they have COVID-19 symptoms or if they've been directed to get a test because they're a high-risk contact of someone else with the disease.
They said people can also come if they've been referred by a medical health professional to meet a ministry guideline, like visiting a long-term care home or having a medical procedure done.
Lee Fairclough, head of the region's COVID-19 assessment centres and president of St. Mary's General Hospital, said she'd like to see pharmacies doing tests at local pharmacies.
"We will certainly be open to how we do that within our region," she said.
Fairclough said the region is also seeking out new locations for additional testing sites, but the main priority is to beef up the existing sites.
"The decision we are making right now is to move nurses, move physicians from other clinical services and practices, to do this testing," she said. "That's probably the biggest thing we are sorting through."
The walk-in centres are busy, but sites offering appointments are also swamped.
"The numbers have gone through the roof," said Dr. Joseph Lee from KW4 COVID Assessment Centre.
The clinic's next available appointment isn't until early October. Lee said he's proposing turning his other two walk-in clinics into COVID-19 assessment centres as well.
Cambridge Memorial Hospital's COVID-19 assessment launched a new phone number on Wednesday to help manage calls for appointments. The new number is 519.740.4975, but the centre said it's best to reach through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anyone calling can register for a booked appointment when arriving at the centre, schedule an appointment and cancel an appointment.
The centre said it's prioritizing people with symptoms and anyone who's been instructed to get a test by a public health official.