Here's what it's like to get a walk-in coronavirus test in Calgary

Oct 6 2020, 9:22 pm

Nearly a quarter of Albertans have been tested for coronavirus to date.

…or 1,067,184 people, to be exact, according to the Province of Alberta’s website.

I joined that ever-growing demographic when I went for a drive-through coronavirus test after waking up with a sore throat back in July, and I again added to the number of total tests administered (which now sits at 1,424,946 as of Monday, for anyone curious) when I went for a walk-in test on Monday.

Here’s how that all works.

Booking the test is basically the same as the drive-in operation. You feel some symptoms — in my case, a sore throat and general tiredness — head over to the Alberta Health Services’ website, take the online self-assessment, and punch in your information.

You’ll then be taken to a page that shows you the location of your closest testing sites and the available appointment times. Then you go ahead and pick whichever location is favourable to you.

Keep in mind that AHS won’t send you any sort of confirmation email or text, so be sure to write down or take a photo of your testing location, confirmation number, and appointment time before clicking away from the page.

You’ll also be told that you are now obligated to quarantine until you get a negative test result — something that an alarming number of people are not doing, according to Chief Medical Officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw.

Our review of active cases shows that many people are going to work or social gatherings when symptomatic and awaiting results,” she said in Monday’s press conference. 

“This is a significant risk and is causing case numbers to rise. If you’re sick, stay home. Don’t go to social gatherings, including this Thanksgiving.”

My testing facility was about a kilometre away from downtown, and when I arrived the place seemed reasonably busy. I was first asked to put on a non-medical mask in place of my cloth mask, and then sent to follow a series of arrows.

I eventually arrived at an open hall, with registration on one end and chairs and tables set up on the other.

Following the arrows to the registration window, I showed my Alberta Health Card and ID, was given some papers, and was sent to the other end of the hall, where the tests were being done.

After being directed to a seat and about a minute’s wait, a fully PPE’d health care worker came over, took my forms, shoved a stick up my right nostril, and then sent me on my way.

To be honest, the nasal test was a bit more uncomfortable than the throat swab. There was a sharp pinch, and my right eye got a little teary, but given that the literal child who was getting tested in the seat beside me didn’t seem all that distraught by it, I really couldn’t complain.

It’s kind of like getting the flu shot, or having your teeth cleaned; uncomfortable, a little painful, but nothing to really worry over.

The entire thing took about 15 minutes — not including travel time to and from the facility. Though given the amount of social distance markers I stepped over on my way to registration it seemed that I was there at a less busy time.

Still, the process just goes to — admittedly anecdotally — show the efficiency of the coronavirus response process at work after nearly seven months of the pandemic; from feeling mild symptoms on Saturday morning, to filling out the assessment later that day, booking a test for Monday (which, again, only took 15 minutes), and then receiving results within an expected 24 to 48 hours later.

Or at least that’s how soon I received word of negative results the last time — I’m still waiting on this most recent test.

All this is to say that the process of getting tested for coronavirus is a lot more frictionless than many might assume. Sure, it’s a bit of a hassle to actually go and get the test, but with result turn around time within about three to four days of the initial booking, it’s a lot better than quarantining for two weeks in case you might have it.

Or, worse, not getting tested and not quarantining, which could have some deadly results. According to Hinshaw, eight people died in Alberta as a result of coronavirus over the last weekend alone, and active case numbers are now higher than they’ve been in Alberta since May.

So please, book a test and stay at home if you are feeling any coronavirus symptoms, practice safe physical distancing, wear a mask when out in public and maintain proper hand hygiene — because we may just be heading into second wave.

Chandler WalterChandler Walter

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