The lineup for the only drive-thru coronavirus testing clinic on the North Shore stretched almost a kilometre on the morning of Sept. 27.
It is first come, first served at the former ICBC claims centre on Lloyd Avenue in North Vancouver, which has seen a massive increase in demand since schools reopened earlier this month.
“Last week I was mad about a COVID test line in North Vancouver. Kid still sick and more family members down, now with coughs,” Tweeted Caitlin Shannon. “They are in a line twice as long as their two-hour wait last time. Last time it was on 3rd and now I’m at Pemberton.This is unacceptable. Businesses are frustrated customers can’t access their lots since the testing line is so out of control. It’s a traffic issue.”
After 4 p.m., theBreaker.news counted 50 vehicles stretching from Pemberton and 3rd to the door of the Lloyd Avenue facility. There was no restriction on curbside parking, so idling vehicles in line for testing occupied an eastbound lane. Buses and trucks were forced into the wrong lane for the block. Only one traffic flagger was on duty, at the driveway of the clinic.
Cheryl Atchison of North Vancouver spent almost two hours in line a week earlier, on Sept. 20, to get her teenage daughter tested. She was pleased to report the test came back negative the next day. But she is concerned that the long lineup may have deterred those who are carrying and spreading the virus.
“There were people that were seeing the lineup and turning around,” Atchison said. “That absolutely is a possibility — did some of them go to work?”
Atchison said she thought of leaving for the BCIT test site in Burnaby, but there was a crash reported on the Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows Bridge and nowhere online to check for wait times.
“Just decided to sit and wait, if I could’ve found somewhere faster, I’d have left that lineup in a heartbeat, but there’s nowhere to get that information,” she said.
It was, thankfully, faster than the seven hours she spent waiting for a test at the Urgent and Primary Care Centre near Lonsdale Quay last March.
Once she finally drove inside, there were five vehicle bays staffed and open for testing. Sample collection took only five minutes.
“Everybody was very nice there, I didn’t see anybody being rude to the staff,” she said. “They were trying to process as fast as they could.”
The facility is open daily 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
“Wait times at the ICBC Claim Centre in North Vancouver are reflective of fluctuations in demand. Vancouver Coastal Health has not reduced staff, hours or access to testing at the site,” according to a prepared statement sent to theBreaker.news from the health board. “VCH adjusts the hours of operation across testing sites based on demand for testing services, which has fluctuated at various stages of the pandemic. There have been no changes in hours of operation or availability of testing at the North Shore site.”
Coincidentally, the facility is the nearest to Capilano Elementary School in Pemberton Heights, where school officials confirmed in a Sept. 24 letter that there were eight positive cases. VCH asked a Grade 3 class Sept. 27 to self-isolate.
Children under 12 are unable to be vaccinated. Federal regulatory approval could come next month.
The citizen-run B.C. School Covid Tracker added 88 exposure events across B.C. over the weekend, for a total 404 at 189 schools this month alone.
Parent Advisory Council leaders from Vancouver, Surrey, North Vancouver and Sooke wrote an urgent letter to Health Minister Adrian Dix and Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside, demanding better contact tracing and testing, a vaccine mandate for teachers and staff, a kindergarten to Grade 3 mask mandate, exposure notifications, ventilation and remote learning.
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