COVID-19 testing sites in Waterloo Region prepare for higher demand ahead of school year

Waterloo Region’s hospital-run COVID-19 testing sites are preparing for a surge in demand this fall as students head back to the classroom.

At the St. Mary’s General Hospital testing clinic, staff say they have enough personal protective equipment and healthcare staff on hand to accommodate an increase in tests.

While the province has trimmed down the list of COVID-19 symptoms that would require children to stay home from school, the clinic is still expecting a rise in visits.

“We might possibly see entire classes coming for testing,” said Susanne Kish, manager of St. Mary’s General Hospital testing clinic.

The focus is on students who aren’t eligible for a vaccine because of their age.

“We have concerns about children 12 and under who will be attending school and with the symptoms they may incur, we need to be ready to do testing for that population,” said Kish.

In anticipation of having younger visitors at the site more regularly, St. Mary’s is one of the clinics in the region that is using a less-invasive swab to help ease anxiety.

“One of the initiatives we have started is using our nasal buccal swab. It’s a much less invasive swab. It’s very handy for children who come through and those that are a little nervous of the swab,” Kish said. “This (test) takes the same amount of time.”

Regardless of which test someone gets at the St. Mary’s site, they can expect their results back within two to seven days.

Walk-ins are also welcome at the clinic to help alleviate some pressure, ahead of the expected September surge.