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Put yourself to the test

Arrive early for drive-thru and walk-up testing

By Maria Cotroneo
Winnipeg Regional Health Authority
Published Monday, September 28, 2020

Last week, four Winnipeg Regional Health Authority community testing sites performed a more than 7,200 tests for COVID-19 with more than 1,200 tests performed in a single day. Even though testing picked up over the summer months, we had never had more than 1,000 residents present for testing in one day until September!

Winnipeg has four COVID-19 testing sites:  three walk-up sites - located at Thunderbird House at 715 Main St., a repurposed City of Winnipeg office building at 604 St. Mary's Rd and a former medical clinic at 2735 Pembina Hwy - as well as one drive-through site at 1284 Main St.

As more people present for testing across the city, here are a few things you can expect at our testing sites:

Drive-thru location

If you choose to attend the drive-through location for testing, it is best to show up early in the day, possibly even before it opens at 9 a.m. You will see staff walk along the queue of cars to provide updates about the number of cars waiting ahead and they may provide you with alternate site options for testing.  If you arrive late in the day, staff may provide you the option to attend to another site or advise that you return the following morning. It is important to know that only patients sitting at an accessible window can be tested.

As you advance through the queue, a staff person will come car side and begin the screening process. They will record the number of people in the car that will be tested, the reason you've come for testing, and take down your contact number.  Staff will then hand you the form for you to show to the testing staff through the window of your vehicle. You will also be asked to hold your Manitoba health card or ID up to the window.  Once staff have collected all required information, they will ask you to roll down your window, provide you some instructions on what to do and what to expect, and then administer the swab.

After your swab, you will roll up your window, and the same process will be followed for any other individuals in the vehicle who need to be tested. When all swabs are complete, you will be on your way.

Walk-up location

If you attend a walk-up testing location in Winnipeg, you will encounter an outdoor queue.

Once the site opens, staff will assess the length of the queue and, if it is quite long, they will ask for your phone number so that they can call or text you when your turn is coming up. This will help you escape the elements or a prolonged wait in line. When you receive your call back or text, you should return promptly to the site and check in with the Screener. You will then be placed in the call-back line and called into the testing bays shortly thereafter for testing.

Just as they do at the drive-through site, our walk-up locations may also advise you to return the next day if you present late in the day.

Anyone waiting on site at our walk-up clinics must maintain the recommended physical distance from others and is required to wear a non-medical mask. Staff will direct individuals to use hand sanitizer upon entry to the building before directing them to the appropriate testing bay for testing.

For your safety and ours, person-to-person contact is minimized during testing. A covered clipboard is used to share any important information (such as ID) between staff and the patient. It is disinfected after each patient interaction (along with the chair and any other items used by the patient while in the room).

All sites

Following your swab, testing staff at all four locations will ask you about your plan to access your test results and will share information with you about the Testing Results Portal. They will remind you to call Health Links-Info Santé if your symptoms get worse or to head to Emergency if any symptoms become serious.

Winnipeg testing sites are currently advising patients that results will be available on the electronic Testing Results Portal up to one week after you are screened.

Staff will also provide you with a handout that is specific to your reason for testing and include instructions to access your results online or by phone.

I'm encouraged to see Winnipeggers taking the advice of Public Health and showing up for testing.

Remember, if you feel unwell, STAY HOME and use the online screening tool to determine if you need to be tested. With your help, we can continue to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

For more on preparing your children on being swabbed refer to this graphic.

Maria Cotroneo is the Director of Primary Care and Home Health Services with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. This column was published in the Winnipeg Free Press on Monday, September 28, 2020.

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