Kitchener drive-thru COVID-19 testing clinic hit capacity before it opened on Wednesday
'We will be asking those who arrive to leave,' Grand River Hospital tweeted
The drive-thru COVID-19 testing centre in Kitchener had reached capacity before it was set to open for testing Wednesday morning.
Sarah Sullivan, the site's operations manager, said people began lining up around 3:00 a.m. and soon began lining up in the parking lot and on the street.
"There was an extreme amount of cars overflowing in the parking lot, pedestrians as well, overflowing onto the main streets surrounding the area [and] completely blocking traffic at main intersections this morning," said Sullivan, who said the site had to call police to help manage traffic.
"Many people were very upset and just in order to manage the behaviour, we had to close down."
Grand River Hospital, which runs the drive-thru centre, tweeted at about 7:15 a.m. that the centre had reached capacity. The drive-thru opens at 7:30 a.m.
About 100 people were able to get in for testing before security had to begin turning people away, Sullivan said.
The site will be closed all day Wednesday while staff work on a plan to deal with high volume in the mornings, she said.
"Once we get a handle on the morning volume we should be able to resume operations," said Sullivan, who said the site hopes to reopen Thursday morning.
In tweets on Tuesday, the hospital said it understood people were frustrated by being turned away for testing.
"Due to the extremely high volumes we are seeing at our drive-thru testing clinic, we are reaching capacity throughout the day and need to turn individuals away," the hospital said.
The centre is located in the parking lot of Catalyst 137 on Glasgow Street. The roads near Glasgow Street and Belmont Avenue were blocked with people trying to get into the drive-thru centre.
Waterloo regional police warned about the high number of vehicles in the area and asked people to avoid the area.
The traffic "compounded by increasing aggression that our staff was experiencing in the form of verbal abuse and threats of violence" led to the closure, a hospital official said.
So glad we got up at 5, got turned away and then told to come back later. Ffs. Day two of trying to get a test... one kid with a sore throat and we are all home from work and school. Let’s get this show on the road <a href="https://twitter.com/fordnation?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@fordnation</a>!—@Karen11says
This isn’t even the full lineup of cars on Glasgow this morning but you get the picture. Very busy! <a href="https://t.co/d3Fw8nCZn3">pic.twitter.com/d3Fw8nCZn3</a>—@PaulaDuhatschek
Cars lined up with people waiting since 5-6am down to the end of Eden Avenue. Cars lining Glasgow, both directions. It's crazy. <a href="https://t.co/1t2pRGSR8r">pic.twitter.com/1t2pRGSR8r</a>—@AccidentalRob
Brad Goodman got to the Catalyst testing site on foot when it opened. Was turned away. He doesn’t drive and says he doesn’t have any other good options to get a test. <a href="https://t.co/b9iJbPyDOY">pic.twitter.com/b9iJbPyDOY</a>—@PaulaDuhatschek
Last week, the hospital said the drive-thru was being closed several times during the day as it reached capacity.
"It does happen and there's not much we can do about it once our overflow parking is full, we have to turn people away," hospital spokesperson Cheryl Evans said at the time.
She said they have to turn people away to maintain access to the site for staff and also to keep people safe.
The drive-thru site was built to handle 350 vehicles a day. The staff at the site have averaged 550 tests each day in recent weeks.
People need 'informed decisions' about testing
Sullivan said there needs to be better public education about when testing is appropriate, and that people should make "informed decisions" about whether they need one.
She apologized to those who were turned away and said further updates about the site will be posted on the hospital's website and social media.
"We did not anticipate we would have to close this morning, but we appreciate your patience and look forward to seeing you in the near future," she said.
On Tuesday during a media briefing, 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.
"If you are not experiencing symptoms, or you have not been directed to seek testing, please consider not going to an assessment centre at this time," Wang said, noting this is a "temporary request" and no one will be turned away.