Toronto hospital reopens COVID-19 testing centre for children ahead of expected increase in demand during school year

Paramedics and ambulances are pictured at Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto on Monday, April 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Michael Garron Hospital (MGH) is reopening its paediatric emergency department COVID-19 assessment zone Wednesday ahead of the new school year, citing an expected increased demand for testing.

The testing centre, which is separate from MGH’s general COVID-19 assessment centre, will be open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and will serve symptomatic children and families by appointment.

“Michael Garron Hospital’s (MGH) Paediatric Emergency Department (ED) COVID-19 Assessment Zone offers a family-friendly space for COVID-19 testing, as well as expedited paediatric ED assessments, for symptomatic children and families,” a statement issued by the hospital to CTV News Toronto Wednesday said.

The paediatric testing centre originally operated from Sept. 2020 to June 2021, and has been relaunched “to accommodate an expected increased demand for testing in East Toronto ahead of back-to-school,” the hospital said.

The Toronto District School Board’s first day of school is Sept. 9.

Despite Ontario’s 26-page back-to-school safety plan, released on Aug. 3, there have been concerns about high case numbers heading into the school year.

For comparison, when students returned to school last year, the province was reporting a 7-day average of 116 cases per day, compared to today’s 7-day average of 701 cases per day.

HOW TO BOOK

If you’re looking to book an appointment, they will be made available online up to 48 hours in advance. Children must be at least four months old, says the hospital, and under the age of 18. Four family members can be tested within the same appointment as long as all members meet the provincial testing criteria.

Children who visit MGH’s paediatric ED COVID-19 assessment zone will receive an oral-nasal test, which involves rubbing the inside of their mouth and front of their nose with a swab for less than five seconds.

The hospital calls this process “less invasive” than the traditional nasopharyngeal (NP) swab.

“This helps increase the likelihood that children and youth will have pleasant testing experiences,” they said.