Saskatchewan’s first drive-thru coronavirus testing site has opened in Regina.
The site, located in the International Trade Centre at Evraz Place at 1700 Elphinstone Street, will be open between 4 and 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays and between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturdays.
A second one will follow in Saskatoon, with its first day being Thursday. Operating similarly as space allows at 3630 Thatcher Avenue, it will be open Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursday from noon until 7:15 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays from 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Drive-thru testing will be first-come, first-serve. You won’t need a referral from your family doctor or 811 like you would to go to one of the original appointment-based testing sites.
You can come whether you’re symptomatic or asymptomatic. Masks are required and will be provided if you don’t bring your own.
The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) offered a preview Tuesday afternoon. Here’s how it will work:
You’ll enter Evraz Place off Dewdney Avenue, following the signage to a door to Hall C of the International Trade Centre.
A SHA healthcare worker trained in coronavirus testing protocols will greet you and direct you into one of six colour-coded lanes (each one is delineated for three vehicles, meaning there’s capacity for 18 inside at once).
You will be told to shut off your vehicle while parked (the health authority says there are carbon monoxide detectors in place to help with monitoring exhaust and an evacuation plan if needed).
As you move through the process, a second trained SHA worker will follow up with you, asking for your health card to fill out a lab requisition and other information, including your age and whether you’re a healthcare worker, for data-tracking purposes.
The third and final spot in each lane is where the swabbing takes place. Health officials realize that some vehicles could present ergonomic challenges. If that’s the case, you’ll be asked to step out and sit in a chair for your test.
At the end, you’ll be directed out of the building. Expect SHA workers to take a minute to change their gloves and wipe down surfaces in between.
All in all, the process itself takes about six to 10 minutes, estimates the SHA’s Sara Johnson, a primary care director in Regina. If a vehicle has multiple occupants, it will be longer.
Johnson noted that although more than one person is welcome to come in the same car, the health authority prefers families come together for confidentiality reasons.
“Sometimes there’s some education that has to happen,” Johnson added, whether it’s regarding self-monitoring or self-isolation or how the results are shared.
If you’re tested, you can expect to know the outcome within 24-72 hours, she said. If you register for your health record online, you’ll likely know sooner. Regardless, the contract-tracing team will call.
This is early days, said Johnson, noting hours of operation could be adjusted based on demand.
Signage, too, will be adjusted to reflect wait times once the workers at the drive-thru testing site get a better idea of them, themselves, she said.
The health authority will be working the other establishments in the area on traffic flow, Johnson noted.
“We’re expecting with the start up for school and summer ending that we may be busier,” she said.
Adding drive-thru testing sites is part of the provincial strategy to increase testing capacity.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.
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