What you need to know about P.E.I.'s new COVID-19 testing and cough and fever clinics

In anticipation of a rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in P.E.I., the province's two cough and fever clinics are now up and running.

Clinic patients and testing patients are being kept separate

Charlottetown's cough and fever clinic started Saturday, and officials say Summerside's clinic is also launching Monday. (Wayne Thibodeau/CBC)

In anticipation of a rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in P.E.I., the province's two cough and fever clinics are now up and running.

Health officials announced seven new cases of COVID-19 on P.E.I. Monday, bringing the total to 18 positive tests. All are experiencing mild symptoms.

The clinics were announced last week and are provided by the federal government through National Emergency Strategic Stockpile, or NESS.

The mini-clinics function like outpatient clinics with the goal of diverting patients, some of whom may have COVID-19, away from acute care centres like emergency rooms, walk-in clinics and doctor's offices. 

The cough and fever clinics in Summerside and in Charlottetown are being held at the same location as the cities' COVID-19 testing facilities, both of which offer drive-thru testing. The single clinic in Charlottetown is at the Eastlink Centre. 

Charlottetown's clinic was launched on Saturday and tested 62 people for COVID-19 while treating 25 patients at the cough and fever clinic over the weekend.

In a news briefing Monday afternoon, Health PEI's chief of nursing Marion Dowling said the Summerside cough and fever clinic would be opening Monday. The Summerside location had already been providing drive-thru testing, and tested 24 people over the weekend.

In a news release Friday, officials said children who are two years old or younger with a cough or fever should still be taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital or Prince County Hospital emergency department.

By appointment only

To be referred for an appointment at one of the cough and fever clinics, people are asked to call their family physician or nurse practitioner. Those without a primary care provider are asked to call 811.

A drive-thru COVID-19 test in Germany earlier this month. (Thomas Kienzle/AFP/Getty Images)

If you qualify for assessment at the cough and fever clinic, your care provider or 811 will give your information to the staff at the cough and fever clinic — and it shouldn't take long. P.E.I. chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison said call-back times at 811 are down to an hour, and those who receive cough and fever clinic referrals should get in the same day or next morning.

After the referral is received, the patient will receive a call from Health PEI staff to book an appointment.

Anyone who is deemed ineligible for testing at the cough and fever clinics through 811 will be redirected to their family physician or a walk-in clinic.

What to expect

Even though they are being held at the same location, patients coming for the cough and fever clinics and COVID-19 testing should not come in contact with each other.

Dowling said there are signs to show people where to go.

People with cough and fever clinic appointments are directed to park their vehicles and enter the building, where they will be escorted by staff to one of the assessment bays. 

The process for testing for COVID-19 can be carried out without the patient ever leaving their vehicle.

On Monday afternoon, Morrison announced P.E.I. will expand testing to anyone with symptoms of COVID-19, regardless of travel history. 

P.E.I.'s 18 cases of COVID-19 are all related to international travel.

"We've been able to meet the demand all along and we've been growing and adjusting those clinics as we've needed to," said Dowling, adding that P.E.I. still has the ability to increase testing to twice as many people as they are currently. 

COVID-19: What you need to know

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever.
  • Cough.
  • Tiredness.

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.

Health Canada has built a self-assessment tool.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Isolate yourself and call 811. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested. A health professional at 811 will give you advice and instructions.

How can I protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

  • Clean regularly touched surfaces regularly.

  • Practise physical distancing.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.

More COVID-19 stories from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Sam Juric