Ottawa residents frustrated with multi-day wait for COVID-19 test results

OTTAWA — While the lines for a COVID-19 test at assessment centres in Ottawa and eastern Ontario seem long, the wait for results is even longer.

“I kind of had been hearing that the wait time had been going longer and longer,” says Leigh Chartrand, who has been waiting four days for results. “And the kids, they go stir crazy.” 

Others have been waiting even longer. Courtney Cohoon took her daughter to get tested seven days ago, she’s still waiting for the results.

 “If this is the wait times we’re dealing with right now, I’m quite scared for when the winter actually hits,” says Cohoon.

 Cohoon is now in a mandatory self isolation while waiting for those results. Failure to follow the COVID-19 self-isolation measures could result in a $5,000 fine in Ottawa.

“It makes us go crazy cause I feel like I’m checking the website every hour, so that I can give her that hope,” says Cohoon. “I feel like she doesn’t have any hope because we’ve just experiences seven months of lockdown.” 

The overwhelming demand for COVID-19 tests has resulted in a backlog at the labs. On Sunday, Ontario reported a backlog of more than 65,000 tests.  

The Queensway Carleton Hospital said on Twitter last week that some people are waiting up to seven days for test results.

“They can open up as many assessment centres as they want, as many pharmacies as they would like. The problem is its still a funnel,” says Michelle Hoad, CEO of the Medical Laboratory Professionals Association of Ontario.

“It’s gonna funnel to a group that needs to test. So that group is really small.”

Hoad says faster turnarounds, requires more lab capacity.

 “The more labs that come on, hospital labs that come on, and actually get the instruments and start testing, will start to help.”

 Rapid testing still is not yet available Canada. According to infectious disease specialist Dr. Abdu Sharkawy, It would be a game-changer.

“Rapid testing will help immensely and is actually critical to us being able to manage this pandemic,” says Dr. Sharkawy. “We know that this disease is hidden in pockets throughout the community. And if we can’t test those people, and we cant do it efficiently, then we’re gonna have a really hard time getting this under control.”

 Until then, people like Cohoon and Chartrand, can only wait for the results.

 “Yes you’re a prisoner at home,” says Cohoon. “But then, as a parent you want to give your kid that little glimmer of hope that, you don’t have the virus, and you can go back to school.”

 “It sucks,” says Chartrand. “But we’ll make it through.”

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