Saskatchewan·Point of View

I tried Regina's drive-thru COVID test site

CBC Saskatchewan's Bryan Eneas tried out Regina's drive-thru COVID-19 testing site on Thursday.

Increasing testing site hours, services under consideration: SHA

A person approaches health workers in their car to get tested at Regina's new drive-thru testing site. (Jean-Baptiste Demouy/Radio-Canada)

It's about 3:55 p.m. Thursday as I pull into the drive-thru COVID-19 testing site at the International Trade Centre in Regina. 

Given that testing in the province has opened up and referrals aren't needed to visit the drive-thru facilities, it seemed inevitable that I'd end up here at some point in 2020.

I've felt more worn out than I should during these last days of my vacation, even after a relatively taxing move to a new home. That, combined with a lack of an appetite, the occasional ache and a minor sore throat, told me it was probably a good time to get a COVID test. 

I arrived five minutes before the facility was supposed to open. Surprisingly, about 40 cars were already ahead of me.

Once I made my way through winding line in the parking lot outside Hall C, I heard a staff member say they began taking tests just after 3:15 p.m. Thursday — 45 minutes before they originally planned. 

About an hour after I arrived, I was directed into a smaller lineup of cars in one of six lanes inside the hall. A friendly staff member asked for my health card and personal information, and if I was sick or had any symptoms.

Staff inside were wearing robes, surgical masks and something to cover their hair. It seemed things like face shields, goggles or gloves were optional. 

They worked with a sense of efficiency and purpose in whatever role they were playing. Those I interacted with seemed quietly confident and offered words of comfort upon learning I hadn't been feeling well. 

After giving the required information, my anxiety about the experience reached its peak. With two cars between me and this test, questions started to fill my head. 

What would it feel like? What will happen if I test positive? Could I recall my movements over the last two weeks if I needed to? 

Cars stopped, started and squeaked their way through the facility, their tires trying to find grip on the shiny concrete floors.

It was a surreal experience. 

If you told me at 2019's Agribition that the next time I'd set foot in this building would be for a drive-thru test to see if I had a virus that caused a global pandemic, I'd probably tune you out pretty quick. 

Before I knew it, another nurse was clarifying my paperwork and walking me through the test itself. 

I was informed the process would take about 10 seconds, then asked to lower my mask to cover just my mouth, look forward and lean back. 

I still can't properly describe the sensation I felt. It was a strange hybrid of a pinch, a tickle and a shock. It definitely forced some tears out of my left eye. 

As soon as I was ready, I was asked to guide my vehicle out of the facility. That was it. From start to finish, it took me about an hour and ten minutes to get a non-referred COVID-19 test. 

I was told I'd get a phone call about my results between 24 and 72 hours after I had completed my test.

Increases in services, hours being considered

Regina and Saskatoon each have drive-thru testing facilities. The Queen City opened a centre for the first time on Tuesday, while Saskatoon's opened on Thursday.

Regina's drive-thru site is open from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.

Saskatoon's drive-thru site is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 12:00 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

The Regina facility processed 260 swabs in its first four hours Tuesday. 

The SHA said it conducted 329 swabs in the Regina facility that day and noted testing began at 3:17 p.m. CST because people were already waiting outside.

In Saskatoon, 467 tests were conducted on Thursday, the first day a drive-thru site was operational, SHA said.

The drive-thru testing program could see expansion. The Saskatchewan Health Authority said in an email that increasing hours and days of service is being considered for the coming weeks.

The government, on its information page about the testing facilities, acknowledged it supported other jurisdictions looking to bring drive-thru COVID testing to the masses. 

"Our testing assessment centres were set up for operation based on the demand for COVID-testing," the government website said. 

"With the end of summer holidays and the return to school, we are anticipating an increased demand for COVID-testing." 

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story listed incorrect hours for the Saskatoon COVID-19 drive-thru test site.
    Sep 11, 2020 12:54 PM CT

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bryan Eneas

Reporter

Bryan Eneas is a journalist from the Penticton Indian Band currently based in Regina, Saskatchewan. Before joining CBC, he reported in central and northern Saskatchewan. Send news tips to Bryan.Eneas@cbc.ca.

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