COVID testing vacancies: Dozens of COVID-19 testing slots remain empty at Ottawa assessment centres

Residents line up outside the Brewer Arena in Ottawa to be tested for COVID-19, Sept. 14, 2020. (Chris Black / CTV News Ottawa)

As dozens of COVID-19 appointment slots remain empty daily in Ottawa, the medical officer of health is encouraging anyone with COVID-19 symptoms to present for testing.

Two weeks after Ontario moved COVID-19 testing to an appointment-only model, CTV News Ottawa found 39 time slots were still available for testing in Ottawa on Sunday afternoon, with dozens of appointments also available on Monday and Tuesday.

On Oct. 4, Ontario discontinued walk-in testing services at all COVID-19 assessment centres across the province and transitioned to an appointment-based system. Premier Doug Ford said the appointment-only system for COVID-19 care clinics would help reduce the testing line-ups.

Through September, long lines formed outside the COVID-19 Assessment Centre at Brewer Arena and the two care clinics hours before opening. Both the COVID-19 Care Clinic on Moodie Drive and the COVID-19 Care Clinic on Heron Road reported being at the daily capacity shortly after opening on several days in September.

At 3 p.m. on Sunday, 19 time slots were still available for COVID-19 testing at the COVID-19 Assessment Centre at Brewer Arena. There were 20 time slots available for children's appointments at the COVID-19 CHEO Assessment Centre at Brewer Arena on Sunday.

Ottawa Public Health's website also showed as of 3 p.m. Sunday, 32 time slots were available for a COVID-19 test at the Drive-Thru Assessment Centre on Coventry Road on Monday, and 37 time slots available on Tuesday.

Daily appointment slots for the COVID-19 Assessment Centre at Brewer Arena are released at 8:30 p.m. nightly.

Ottawa's COVID-19 Testing Taskforce didn't provide an update on the number of tests conducted at Ottawa's assessment centres over the weekend. The last update on Friday showed 1,938 swabs taken at Ottawa assessment centres on Oct. 15.

Speaking on Newstalk 580 CFRA on Friday, Dr. Vera Etches said after people saw long lines for COVID-19 testing in September, not everyone is presenting for testing now.

"They have had a bad experience, they had to stand in line, they had to wait for their results for days and days. I want to encourage people if they have symptoms to present for testing now," said Dr. Etches.

"You can book an appointment online, you can also phone if you don't have an online access. There's a phone number for the different assessment centres."

The medical officer of health said it is important to get tested for COVID-19 if you have symptoms.

"It's for people who have respiratory symptoms or who've been exposed to somebody who tested positive for COVID-19. Just want to encourage people to keep presenting because it helps us control the virus when we follow up and do the testing."

The new COVID-19 care clinic at the Ray Friel Recreation Complex opens on Monday.

You can also get a COVID-19 test at select pharmacies in Ottawa.