Weekend operating hours reduced at Brewer Arena COVID-19 testing facility as fewer people get tested on weekends

OTTAWA — As Ottawa’s main COVID-19 testing centre cuts back on operating hours on weekends, Ottawa’s medical officer of health and Ottawa’s COVID-19 Testing Taskforce are trying to figure out why fewer people are presenting for testing on weekends.

And Dr. Vera Etches continues to encourage anyone with symptoms to get tested for the virus to help control the spread in the community.

Starting Friday, the CHEO Assessment Centre at Brewer Arena and the Assessment Centre for Adults at Brewer Arena will be open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The facility had been open from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on weekends.

“It drops on the weekends; somehow, for some reason when there’s nice weather out on the weekend we get fewer people coming forward,” said Dr. Etches on Thursday when asked about Ottawa’s COVID-19 testing numbers.

“So I do want to encourage people that, that is part of doing your part to protect others. If you have symptoms, even mild symptoms, it’s worth getting a COVID test.”

In September, there were long line-ups for testing at Brewer Arena and Ottawa’s two COVID-19 care clinics on Heron Road and Moodie Drive. Since then, the Ontario Government changed the testing criteria and introduced an appointment system for all COVID-19 testing.

On Monday, the taskforce reported 188 tests were performed at the CHEO Assessment Centre and 270 tests at the adult assessment centre on Sunday, Nov. 8. On Oct. 25, 314 tests were conducted at the adult assessment centre, while 220 tests were conducted at the CHEO clinic.

In a statement to CTV News Ottawa this week, the Ottawa COVID-19 Testing Taskforce said it’s assessing testing volumes at all facilities.

“In recent weeks, we have been tracking a lower volume of booked appointments, particularly on weekend evenings, at the Brewer Assessment Centre. Brewer’s hours were ultimately adjusted to focus resources and to ensure Ottawa’s testing options meet the needs of residents,” the taskforce said.

“The taskforce is also investigating lower volumes across all sites. We are not certain of the cause and we continue to investigate things like alternative options (e.g. pharmacies and workplace testing), motivation, socioeconomic status, geography, and other potential barriers.”

The medical officer of health says Ottawa Public Health is working with the COVID-19 Testing Taskforce on testing strategies.

“We continue to work with our partners that run the testing system to try and explore more why are people coming, why are they not coming. These are things that’s worth exploring for sure.”

Dr. Etches told reporters that with COVID-19 cases dropping in Ottawa, there might be more people without symptoms in the community.

“I think that regardless we know there’s always people who not presenting to be tested because they don’t think it could be COVID or there’s asymptomatic infection,” said Dr. Etches.

“I do encourage people to be tested if they have symptoms.”

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