New COVID-19 testing site opens at UVic; Island Health says tests booked faster

Island Health performed an average of 1,130 COVID-19 tests a day over the past week, after adding new test locations and doubling its testing capacity over two months in response to increased demand.

Victoria Schmid, vice-president of pandemic planning at Island Health, said some test sites have an additional drive-through lane, while others have increased appointments and staffing.

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On Monday, Island Health opened a new testing site at the University of Victoria campus, in parking lot 10 off Gordon Head Road. Other test sites are at the Victoria Health Unit, ­Peninsula Health Unit and the Juan de Fuca Recreation Centre.

As with all other Island Health test sites, people must have an appointment, made through the health authority’s COVID-19 call centre (1-844-901-8442), to be tested.

Island Health has come under fire since late July for failing to keep up with ­increasing demand for COVID-19 tests.

As the number of new daily cases fell off over the summer, pandemic restrictions eased and demand for tests fell, nurses and others returned to their regular jobs.

When demand for tests ramped up again, Island Health had neither the staff nor infrastructure — a call-back phone line, for instance — to process the high number of requests in a timely way, resulting in hours-long phone waits to get an appointment.

Recent changes, including the addition of a call-back line, have reduced waits, and requests for tests have levelled off. More than a week ago, there was an average of about 800 call-back requests per day, compared with 1,200 the week earlier.

Requested tests are generally booked on the same day, according to the health authority.

The COVID-19 test can be done as a nasal swab for those 19 and older, and as a gargle test for children ages four to 18.

From Oct. 7 to 20, Island Health processed 2,570 gargle tests, an average of 184 a day, and 11,474 swab tests, or 820 per day.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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