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Edmontonians flock to drop-in COVID-19 testing centre

Click to play video 'Edmontonians flock to drop-in COVID-19 testing centre' Edmontonians flock to drop-in COVID-19 testing centre
WATCH ABOVE: Global News takes you inside the COVID-19 testing centre in Edmonton's south side. Julia Wong speaks with frontline workers who are administering the test.

Edmontonians are taking advantage of the new drop-in COVID-19 testing centre in the city.

READ MORE: Alberta introduces drop-in COVID-19 testing in Edmonton, Calgary as 13 more cases confirmed Tuesday

According to numbers provided by AHS, 556 people were tested at the centre, located at 7319 29 Avenue, on Wednesday — the first day the drop-in option was available.

Out of the 556 tests, 333 were appointments and 223 were drop-ins. AHS said appointments are preferred and is asking people who make them to keep their timeslot instead of dropping in.

Registered Nurse Jocelyn Tews administers a throat swab to test for COVID-19.
Registered Nurse Jocelyn Tews administers a throat swab to test for COVID-19. Julia Wong/Global News

Last week, the province announced it was expanding testing to all Albertans, regardless of whether they have symptoms.

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The expanded testing is why Susan Zukiwsky made an appointment to get swabbed.

“Rather than walking around not knowing that, I think it’s better to know. Although I appreciate testing is specifically for today [and] you still need to be cautious afterward,” she said.

READ MORE: Asymptomatic COVID-19 testing will be available to anyone in Alberta

Once people enter the testing centre, they are required to wear a mask. They are registered then are taken to a station where a nurse or an allied healthcare professional will swab their throat.

Jocelyn Tews has been a registered nurse for nearly 23 years. While she has assisted in other outbreaks in the past, such as measles and H1N1, the COVID-19 outbreak is a bit different.

“A lot bigger and lasting a lot longer,” she said.

Staff receive an orientation before doors open to people.
Staff receive an orientation before doors open to people. Julia Wong/Global News

Tews said staff are fine-tuning the flow at the drop-in centre.

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“We learn as we go. We tweak the process as we need to. For example, yesterday we really had no idea how many drop-in people would come,” she said.

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“We rolled with it yesterday and as we realized there was quite a line up, we split people up into two different entrances. We were just flexible.”

Click to play video 'Alberta opens COVID-19 testing to all residents, symptomatic or not' Alberta opens COVID-19 testing to all residents, symptomatic or not
Alberta opens COVID-19 testing to all residents, symptomatic or not

Tews said she isn’t nervous when she administers tests.

“I get asked that a lot, especially from my family because they worry and think I’m more at risk. We’ve got all of the measures in place. PPE is available,” she said.

“Everything that we need [is here]. [We’re] really well protected here.”
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Registered Nurse Jocelyn Tews dons her PPE.
Registered Nurse Jocelyn Tews dons her PPE. Julia Wong/Global News

Healthcare professionals redeployed

Occupational Therapist Krista Hammond was redeployed to help out with testing in April.

“It’s extremely different from my normal occupational therapy job,” she said.

Occupational Therapist Krista Hammond prepares a patient to be swabbed.
Occupational Therapist Krista Hammond prepares a patient to be swabbed. Julia Wong/Global News

“I was a little bit apprehensive at first – just worrying, like anyone else, I was worried about COVID-19 and didn’t want to catch it,” she said.

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“Once I started doing it, I became less worried because, as you can see, the amount of PPE we have on and how diligent we are with changing it, it took a lot of my anxiety about it away.”

Hammond, who works at testing sites three times a week and at her day job twice a week, said she’s gained some insight during her redeployment.

“It just goes to show you how important healthcare is, especially public healthcare, just to be able to meet the needs of the entire community,” she said.

Click to play video 'Opening testing to all Albertans really about population surveillance: Hinshaw' Opening testing to all Albertans really about population surveillance: Hinshaw
Opening testing to all Albertans really about population surveillance: Hinshaw

Hammond does not yet know how long she will be redeployed.

“It’s a change of pace and it’s something we get used to. We’ll continue to meet the needs of the community as long as we need to to fight COVID-19,” she said.

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“I feel like I’m trying to make a difference in this.”

A sign outside the drop-in COVID-19 testing centre in Edmonton.
A sign outside the drop-in COVID-19 testing centre in Edmonton. Julia Wong/Global News
A line forms outside the drop-in centre in Mill Woods.
A line forms outside the drop-in centre in Mill Woods. Julia Wong/Global News
Staff receive an orientation before doors open to people.
Staff receive an orientation before doors open to people. Julia Wong/Global News
A view of the stations in the testing area.
A view of the stations in the testing area. Julia Wong/Global News
Registered Nurse Jocelyn Tews prepares her station for a patient.
Registered Nurse Jocelyn Tews prepares her station for a patient. Julia Wong/Global News
Patients are registered upon arriving inside the testing area.
Patients are registered upon arriving inside the testing area. Julia Wong/Global News
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Registered Nurse Jocelyn Tews walks a patient to her station.
Registered Nurse Jocelyn Tews walks a patient to her station. Julia Wong/Global News
Registered Nurse Jocelyn Tews walks a patient through the process of being swabbed.
Registered Nurse Jocelyn Tews walks a patient through the process of being swabbed. Julia Wong/Global News
Registered Nurse Jocelyn Tews administers a throat swab to test for COVID-19.
Registered Nurse Jocelyn Tews administers a throat swab to test for COVID-19. Julia Wong/Global News
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