Outbreak at Quebec City Costco prompts surge in demand for testing
Queue at drive-through clinic was 4 hours long Friday morning
A COVID-19 outbreak at a Quebec City Costco has led to a rush of people seeking to be tested, with demand so high at one clinic that public health authorities had to temporarily close it because of excessive waiting times.
The regional public health authority, the CIUSSS de la Capitale-Nationale, announced Thursday that eight employees of the Costco in Lebourgneuf — one of the busiest in the region — had tested positive.
Public health officials are most concerned about testing the store's employees.
"We have a 48 hour window from Thursday afternoon to test all the employees, and there are 450 of them," said Serge Garneau, a deputy director at the public health authority.
Although officials say the risk of transmission to recent Costco shoppers remains low, the drive-through testing centre in the Fleur de Lys shopping centre parking lot has seen a major surge.
On Thursday, the Fleur de Lys clinic carried out 1,345 tests — double the daily average, according to statistics from the regional public health authority.
About 50 CIUSSS employees were on hand Friday morning to take samples, far more than the 25 or 30 on site on a typical day. But wait times in the morning reached four hours, and there weren't enough parking spaces at the facility, prompting officials to temporarily close the clinic.
Watch video from this morning's epic wait:
Public health officials said they may open another temporary facility to take the pressure off Fleur de Lys, with details expected later today.
Before it was temporarily closed, the Fleur de Lys testing site had opened a priority line for Costco workers. As of Friday employees can also get tested at the store.
Even when people wear masks and follow all the rules, outbreaks can still happen in large crowded spaces like Costco, said Dr. Nima Machouf, an epidemiologist and instructor in the school of public health at Université de Montréal.
As long as the virus exists, there is no such thing as zero risk, Machouf said, and so testing is essential. She said she thinks the province can keep up, even if some clinics are taken by surprise by sudden demand.
The first case at the Lebourgneuf Costco was discovered last Friday, according to the store's manager, François Godin.
The infected workers and anyone with whom they may have been in contact have been in self-isolation.
With files from Radio-Canada and Sudha Krishnan