By: Mike Anderson
More than 130 residents tested negative for COVID-19 after the Georgina Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic (GNPLC) launched a “pop-up” drive-thru testing site at the Georgina Sutton Arena Hall parking lot on July 29.
According to GNPLC Clinical Director Beth Cowper-Fung, 133 tests were completed, including nine walk-ins, with no one testing positive for the virus.
“All tests were negative. Some very happy folks will get to visit loved ones in other provinces or long-term care,” she said.
While Ms. Cowper-Fung was hoping for a bigger turnout, with 400 swabs available for testing, she wasn’t sure they could have handled any more vehicles.
“I was hoping to get more. But we were steady. And so even if we had 400 cars show up, I don’t know that we could have seen them all, and it would have been horrific to turn them away,” she said.
“Those 133 people will now go out there into the community and say it doesn’t kill you. It’s not that bad. And so we may have more interest going forward.”
While some residents were a little apprehensive about getting the test, they were grateful not to have to drive to Newmarket to get it done.
More than a dozen vehicles lined-up for the start of the “no-appointment necessary” testing, which was offered from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The first car to enter the parking lot was driven by Joan from Jackson’s Point, who has Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and wanted to get tested for some peace of mind.
“I do cough, and I just wanted to make double sure,” she said.
“I think it’s a great idea because many people can’t get down to Newmarket or just don’t want to, because they’re afraid to go to the hospital where they might catch it.”
That sentiment was echoed by Rachel, from Pefferlaw, who wanted to get a test because she hasn’t seen family members, including a sister who’s ill, in four months.
“I think a lot of people have wanted something like this earlier. Because it’s too far to drive to Newmarket,” she said.
Despite concerns that expanded community testing might lead to a spike in Georgina’s COVID numbers — currently six active cases with no new cases reported over the past seven days — several residents said that it’s necessary to curb the spread of the virus.
“We’re doing a pretty good job. But with the beaches opening up, I’m concerned. It’s important to test because some people are carriers and don’t even know they have it,” Joan said.
“I think testing is good. Because you’re not going to know who’s sick and who’s not, I think it’s for the best. We should know,” Rachel added.
Rachel would like to see more drive-thru testing, as more people are coming from outside Georgina during the summer months.
“A lot of them are acting foolishly and not obeying the laws.”
Mayor Margaret Quirk also wants to see more community testing going forward.
“If you’re asymptomatic and you’ve got the COVID virus, you need to know, and we as a community need to know,” she said.
“At the very beginning of this pandemic, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said that the key to bringing the pandemic under control is testing, testing, and more testing.”
Mayor Quirk also emphasized that testing on this scale, couldn’t happen without the leadership of the Georgina NPLC.
“They have health care professionals. They know what they’re doing. This didn’t just happen overnight. This took a lot of planning. We, as a Town, don’t have the ability to put a testing site in. So it’s great that the nurse practitioners have stepped up to do it.”
While the event was a logistical challenge, requiring contributions from various health agencies, the Town of Georgina, local not-for-profits and businesses, Ms. Cowper-Fung is considering more drive-thru testing events in the coming months.
But she would like to streamline the process.
While she said that the actual swabbing was fast, there was a lot of time spent handling IDs and processing paperwork.
She’d like to double the number of administrative staff and pre-book tests, allowing forms and labels to be printed beforehand.
Still, she estimates it took just 16 minutes from start to finish, if the vehicle was six car lengths behind.
Test results, which typically take from 36 to 72 hours, are posted online at https://covid-19.ontario.ca and require an OHIP card number to access.
If residents do not have an OHIP card or cannot access a computer, the staff at the GNPLC will assist them.
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