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London, Ont., testing sites reach capacity, Western University site expands

The check-in centre for Western University's mobile COVID-19 testing trailer, which has seen a surge in demand amid growing cases.
The check-in centre for Western University's mobile COVID-19 testing trailer, which has seen a surge in demand amid growing cases. Andrew Graham / Global News

It was another busy day for testing centres in London, Ont., as the city deals with an ongoing outbreak of COVID-19.

The outbreak was declared over the weekend after a handful of students from Western University tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Read more: Coronavirus: 3 new cases reported in London-Middlesex: health unit

On Tuesday, the city’s main testing sites at Oakridge Arena and the Carling Heights Optimist Community Centre had reached capacity by 3 p.m. Those who made it to the testing centres early enough were met with wait times of at least two hours.

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Similar issues were seen at Western University on Monday, with the school’s mobile testing trailer reaching capacity within an hour of opening.

Associate vice-president of student experience Jennifer Massey said by Tuesday, their testing capacity had increased to about 500. That’s up from 220 on Monday and up from 50 on Friday, when the trailer first launched.

“We’re very fortunate to have really fabulous staff on board that are able to pivot and meet the need of our students,” said Massey.

Read more: Western University testing trailer hits capacity following COVID-19 outbreak

While the capacity increased, wait times still stretched into hours for students who arrived after the testing trailer’s scheduled opening of 11 a.m.

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To prevent students from having to wait in line the entire time, tickets were dealt that guaranteed a test before the trailer closed for the day, allowing students to come back to the testing trailer once lines died down.

“One of the joys about being a university is that we are really great at evaluating and making changes as necessary,” said Massey.

“At the end of the day yesterday, we got together as a leadership team, we reviewed what was working well, where there were extra needs, and we made changes and adjustments as necessary. We’ll do the same at the end of the day today.”

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First year students Laura Dalali, Emma Stargratt and Maddy Riviglia showed up for the testing trailer about 20 minutes after its scheduled opening. The three were handed tickets and told it’d be at least two hours until they’d get a test.

“Today, we decided to come early so we could get here before the line, but I guess it’s still long,” said Dalali. “At least they’re doing something… I’m not mad at it.”

The three students said they were grateful to have on-site testing, adding that they had expected an outbreak to be declared once the school year arrived.

“We think it’s going to grow a lot, but at the same time, we just hope that it just stays at 8 or 12 (cases), something like that so we can just be okay. I don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Stargratt. “I just hope people are being safe and not going to 100-people house parties or bars.”

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Read more: Pandemic-delayed surgeries could be completed by 2021: London Health Sciences Centre

Fourth year student Luca Trivisonno was also handed a test-guaranteeing ticket on Tuesday, but says he was pleased with the wait system.

“I heard yesterday was a little chaotic, so I think today they got kind of a little bit of time to adjust themselves to it,” said Trivisonno.

Trivisonno says he thinks the surge in those seeking testing was prompted by news of the outbreak and students wanting peace of mind.

“I believe, in the next coming days, the volume of students that will be taking the test will die down,” said Trivisonno.

Read more: Canada’s coronavirus testing capacity can handle surge in demand: Tam

Following the surge in demand at London’s testing centres in Oakridge Arena and Carling Heights on Tuesday, the Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) reiterated a message on its social media for those seeking testing.

As was said on Monday, the MLHU is continuing to advise Londoners to postpone testing if they do not have symptoms, are not a Western student and have not recently visited downtown establishments.

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The testing centre at Oakridge Arena is set to reopen on Wednesday at 9 a.m. with the Carling Heights testing centre opening at 11 a.m. In a tweet, the MLHU said they expect both sites to be “extremely busy” on Wednesday.

The testing trailer on Western campus is set to open at 11 a.m., but will only serve students, faculty and staff.

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