Western University testing trailer hits capacity following COVID-19 outbreak

Western University students line up for an on-campus COVID-19 testing centre on Monday morning.
Western University students line up for an on-campus COVID-19 testing centre on Monday morning. Andrew Graham / Global News

It took less than an hour for Western University’s COVID-19 walk-in testing trailer to reach capacity following the declaration of a community outbreak in London, Ont.

The outbreak comes after a number of students tested positive for the novel coronavirus. In a statement released on Sunday, Western noted that the infected students live off-campus and that no on-campus exposures had been identified.

Read more: Coronavirus: 6 new cases in London as MLHU reports spike in infections involving Western students

On Monday morning, hundreds of students ventured on-campus in hopes of being assessed at the testing trailer in the parking lot of the university’s Social Sciences Centre.

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Western’s associate vice-president of student experience, Jennifer Massey, said the testing trailer had the capacity to test at least 220 students on Monday.

The trailer was scheduled to open at 11 a.m. and within an hour, students in line were informed that capacity had been reached.

“At the end of the day today, we’ll be regrouping and determining if we need to make any changes or modifications to the resources (at the testing trailer). Our goal is, of course, to meet demand as much as possible,” said Massey.

Western student Cali Soissa said she sought testing after her roommate came into indirect contact with someone who tested positive for the virus.

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Soissa was left feeling anxious after hearing she wouldn’t be able to get tested at the on-campus site on Monday.

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“If they say they’re open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., but then all of a sudden say, ‘Sorry, it’s been 20 minutes and we’re at capacity,’ then it leaves everyone with a lot more questions,” said Soissa.

Read more: ‘Faux Week’ cancelled, concerns linger as Western University students return

“It’s kinda frustrating,” said Matthew Wang, another student who was turned away on Monday after showing up an hour and a half after the testing trailer had opened.

Wang and his roommate, who both live off-campus, made the trip to Western on Monday after learning of the new outbreak, along with a spike in cases province-wide.

“I think that they should’ve definitely added a larger testing area knowing how large the Western student population is,” said Wang.

Read more: More lockdowns possible if Ontario’s coronavirus cases continue to increase, Doug Ford says

A similar sentiment was shared by student Elizabeth Lam, who sought testing on Monday as a precaution after hearing of the outbreak.

“It kind of makes me nervous that it’s only been open for maybe an hour or so and it’s already hit the max … I don’t really know when the best time would be to come,” said Lam.

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“With classes and everything, even though it’s online, I have Zoom calls with professors that I can’t really miss and a job as well. It’s a little nerve-wracking, but it’s not too bad because I know that Western is doing everything they can to make us safe.”

Long lines were also seen at London’s two COVID-19 assessment centres at Oakridge Arena and the Carling Heights Optimist Community Centre.

This prompted local health officials to advise the public to postpone getting tested if they have no symptoms, are not a Western student and have not visited downtown establishments.

During a media briefing from the Middlesex-London Health Unit on Monday afternoon, medical officer of health Dr. Chris Mackie provided an update on the ongoing outbreak.

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“There clearly is a lot of activity in terms of COVID-19 spreading in the student population … large gatherings in bars and close quarters in the downtown area are generating a lot of those cases,” said Mackie.

Read more: Pilot project testing London wastewater yields first coronavirus sample: city

The medical officer of health added that while the vast majority of students and young people are behaving safely, a small number of folks are choosing to put others at risk.

“These are typical behaviours of this age group, even in the face of risk,” said Mackie.

“We do anticipate we will see more of this behaviour and I would be surprised if it doesn’t generate more cases in the community.”