By John Swartz
People have been flocking to Soldiers Memorial Hospital for COVID-19 tests causing lineups on Mississaga Street from Volunteer Avenue to Westmount Drive. Line ups started to grow last week.
“Friday we had 339. That was sort of a new high for us. Monday we did 349 and yesterday 341,” said Terry Dyni, the hospital’s director of community relations. It’s not clear why people are all of a sudden getting tested.
“It’s hard to pinpoint a specific. There’s multiple factors. There’s certainly increased numbers of positive cases that are being reported, so people have additional concerns. There’s children going back to school and certainly parents want to make sure their children are safe and protected; that may be an influencing factor. It may be a sort of a confluence of different factors that are resulting in that, but it’s hard to pinpoint just one,” Dyni said.
The average number of tests conducted daily between September 1 and 15 is 162 people. In August the average was 111. Numbers started to rise on the first day of school September 8 and there was a sudden jump from 242 tests on September 14 to 300 on the 15th, and the numbers of stayed over 300, except for this past weekend when 189 and 191 test were done on Saturday and Sunday. Dyni said that was in a 3 ½ window of opportunity because the testing center is only open from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. both days.
People near the head of the line had been waiting for many hours.
“Three hours, maybe more actually. No, actually 4 hours,” said Stephen Genno. He was stretching his legs on the boulevard. He was in line, but getting a test wasn’t why he endured the wait.
“I don’t (need testing). My wife does for work. She works at a pharmacy. She got a cold yesterday and they told her she needed to get tested,” Genno said. His wife’s company policy is to be kept off work until tested.
Liberato D’Angelo, a little further back in the line, had also been waiting for 4 hours.
“I just decided to go and check because I’ve got my grandchildren and I want to make sure I’m Ok to be around them,” said D’Angelo.
On the other side of Frederick Street, The Dulmages were 3 hours in.
“We’ve just were informed our painter was near somebody who got positive,” said Mark Dulmage. Along with his wife, Sandy, they came prepared to pass the time.
“What else,” he said holding up his phone, “And we’ve got radio classics on.”
“And books,” said Sandy Dulmage who had a number of them piled on the floor. She said she thinks there is a frustration people have.
“I think the suicide rates are up. It’s s depressing. We’re not meant to be isolated and this is the first time in history where we’ve isolated perfectly healthy people – well, maybe not isolated,” she said.
Online commenters in the Ottawa area reported being turned away from testing centers because they don’t check enough boxes on the screening list – particularly if they don’t have a fever. Dyni is not aware this is being done in Orillia.
“My understanding is if you request a test you can get a test,” Dyni said. He also said people should prepare before going to the testing center.
“One piece of advice is a good first step for everyone is to do the provincial online assessment tool. It kind of gives you an idea of whether you should be going for a test, or maybe there’s an option for some self-isolation to determine how things are going.”
People can also visit the hospital’s webpage for more information about what to expect when getting tested.
Finally, it was observed because of the cars, SUVs and pickup trucks lining Mississaga, drivers trying to turn from Frederick Street have no ability to see oncoming traffic in either direction until they are into traffic on Mississaga. It would be a good idea to avoid using Frederick, and if on Mississaga, expect to have to stop at Frederick.
“We’re in discussions with the City,” on that issue said Dyni. “We want to make sure things are safe and looking for solutions for that.”
The testing center is open Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia)