Nathaniel Smith, News Reporter

Humber College and the William Osler Heath System transformed the Queens Plate Drive parking lot into a drive-thru assessment centre to screen people for COVID-19.

Drive-thru testing began in the college’s overflow parking lot at Highway 27 just north of Rexdale Boulevard on March 30 and will be operating from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week. This testing site is one of the 12 in Toronto.

Emily Milic, Humber’s manager of PR and communications, said in a phone interview that   William Osler Health System approached the college to provide space for a drive-thru assessment centre.

“The provincial and federal governments also asked colleges and universities to help in the fight of COVID-19 in any way they can, this is just one of the ways we’re helping,” she said.

Unlike other assessment centres, people who show virus-like symptoms can get screened from the comfort of their own cars. Osler also has an assessment centre at Peel Memorial Hospital on Lynch Street in Brampton.

 “They don’t have to get out of their vehicle, the health care workers will be in full protective gear so all the people have to do is drive up, roll down their windows, and get tested,” said Dr. Gurjit Bajwa, an emergency physician at William Osler Health System, in a telephone interview.

Dr. Gurjit Bajwa, an emergency physician at William Osler Health System, says people seem to prefer being tested for COVID-19 at a drive-thru assessment centre rather than in an indoor clinic. (Courtesy William Osler Health System)

The tool used during screening is an elongated cotton swab called a nasopharyngeal swab.

The amount of people who have chosen this way of testing is increasing compared to what Bajwa has seen from the indoor health centre approach.

“The people are willing to come out more, therefore the more people getting screened in the community helps us trace the virus,” he said.

People were afraid of going to regular assessment centres before due to the risks of coming in close contact with patients, Bajwa said.

Those who are being tested don’t get their results back the same day, as the turnaround time is not quick.

“W are just taking the samples and handing them over to Public Health, then Public Health gets involved and will inform the person after,” Bajwa said.

Public Health Ontario posted on its website that test result time may vary and estimated a four-day waiting period at their laboratory.

Humber ensured the drive-thru assessment centre will have a plan for people who are in a serious condition.

“It’s very close to neighbouring hospitals so there may be scenarios where people are redirected to them,” Milic said.

Humber College donated medical supplies, including masks, gloves and gowns, after announcing plans to assist hospitals.

Bajwa said personal protective equipment is absolutely essential for health care workers and the donations are greatly appreciated.

“They [medical supplies] are crucial pieces of equipment that the frontline staff need in order to protect themselves and the number of patients that will continue to rise the next few weeks.”

Bajwa said the most difficult part of testing is to keep up the morale of the frontline staff.

“They are also fearful and anxious not necessarily for themselves, but have fears of taking it home and infecting their families,” he said.