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Record number of people lining up for COVID-19 tests at OSMH

On Monday, the Orillia Assessment Centre saw a record 349 people; People should expect up to five-hour wait times
lineup of cars at OSMH assessment centre sept 2020
Vehicles were lined up this morning from outside the COVID-19 Assessment Centre at Orillia Soldiers' Memorial Hospital all the way up Mississaga Street, down Hammond Street and beyond. Dave Dawson/OrilliaMatters

With school back in session and the number of positive COVID-19 cases spiking across the province, the number of people in Orillia seeking a test for the virus is reaching new heights.

On Monday (Sept. 21), 349 people - a single day record - were tested at the Orillia Assessment Centre at Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital. On Tuesday, 341 people were tested.

If you were anywhere near the hospital, you likely noticed the bumper-to-bumper lineup of vehicles that snaked up Mississaga Street and around Dallas and other sidestreets, as people waited for hours to get their 10-minute test.

During peak periods, people can wait up to five hours to get to the front of the line; officials say the current average wait time to be assessed is between three to five hours.

Those long lineups of vehicles have created issues in the neighbourhood around the hospital.

“We are thankful to our neighbours for their patience and understanding with the lineups,” said Terry Dyni, the director of community relations at OSMH.
“We’ve added some temporary signage to avoid driveways being blocked.”

He said new technology - introduced last week - “is definitely helping” to expedite the tests. You can read our story about the new technology here

Despite the new technology, the increased number of people wanting a test is challenging, Dyni said.

“We’ve gone from an average of around 175 (daily) visitors to the assessment centre to upwards of nearly 400 in a very short period,” said Dyni. “And we’ve done that with the same amount of staff, and the same hours of operation.”

In recent weeks, the number of people seeking a test has skyrocketed, officials say.

On Friday, Sept. 18, 339 people sought a test at Orillia’s drive-through assessment centre. On Saturday and Sunday - even though the centre is open only four hours on weekend days - 189 and 191 people, respectively, attended the Volunteer Drive facility.

It’s a trend being seen across Ontario.

To put things in perspective, 478 new COVID-19 cases were reported Tuesday - the highest number of new cases in a single day since early May. 

On May 8, the province reported 477 new cases, and on May 2, the province reported 511 new cases. For both those days, the province also reported about 16,300 tests had been processed. Tuesday's report indicates Ontario labs had processed 34,201 COVID tests in a 24-hour period - or twice the number that were being completed in May.

Dyni could not provide any information when asked if expanded hours or a second assessment centre might be considered.

In Barrie, where a similar increase is being experienced, the municipality is donating use of the city’s former police station to create a larger assessment centre.    

At the assessment centre at Barrie’s Royal Victoria Hospital, 576 people were tested on Sept. 21, which was a record number since the facility opened in March.

The Orillia Assessment Centre is open daily, from Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. It is open Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. For more information about the centre, click here.

Test results are made available online here. With the increased volume of activity, current wait time for test results is approximately 72 hours.

Dyni explained that once samples are collected at Orillia's Assessment Centre, the lab at the hospital completes a final check and packages the specimen for delivery to a lab in southern Ontario for the testing and reporting back. Specimens are shipped out of the Orillia Assessment Centre three times a day. 

-- With files from Jessica Owen


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Dave Dawson

About the Author: Dave Dawson

Dave Dawson is community editor of
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