Kitchener’s drive-thru COVID-19 testing clinic is now appointment only

After unprecedented demand for coronavirus testing at Kitchener’s drive-thru clinic jammed nearby streets and forced staff to close before opening hours began Wednesday, Grand River Hospital says all testing at the location will now be by appointment only.

The region’s largest testing centre has been overwhelmed with demand since early last week, having to close early — or close, then reopen multiple times a day — as the facility hit capacity and cars spilled out onto the street.  

That dynamic took a turn on Wednesday morning as people began lining up at 3:00 a.m., four hours before opening the location on Glasgow Street. The site’s operations manager Sarah Sullivan said 100 people were tested before security had to step in. 

The rest of the day was spent coming up with a better system to serve the community, said Sullivan. 

The hope is switching to an appointment-only system with online registration will ease some of the pressure and stress at the testing site. Staff have experienced “verbal abuse and threats of violence,” according to one hospital official. 

Tests by appointment only, must pre-register

According to messages posted to Twitter late Wednesday afternoon, people are to register online for a time slot the next day. The online registration will be open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

People will need to register using their Ontario health card, and each person registering for a test must fill out a pre-registration form, even if they are members of the same family or social circle. 

The hospital said people who do not fill out the pre-registration form will not be tested, but if people need help registering, they can call 226-747-5049. 

Grand River Hospital also said if, for instance, a family was unable to secure appointments within a reasonable time window of one another, staff will do their best to accommodate — provided the pre-registration forms have been filled out.

During a media briefing on Tuesday, the region’s acting medical officer of health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang asked people who aren’t exhibiting symptoms and who haven’t been directed to get a test to avoid being tested — for now.

Public health says there are 150 active cases of COVID-19 in the region. The region’s testing centres have completed more than 85,000 tests since March.

Hundreds of people were lined up for the Kitchener drive-thru early Wednesday morning. These cars wait on Glasgow Street. Grand River Hospital, which runs the drive-thru centre, announced before the drive-thru was set to open on Wednesday that it had reached capacity. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC)

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