Tired of COVID test lineups? CHEO rolls out take-home option

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CHEO is now offering take-home COVID 19 testing kits at the Brewer Arena assessment centre, as the demand for tests has nearly doubled in Ottawa over the past month.  (Jean Delisle/CBC - image credit)
CHEO is now offering take-home COVID 19 testing kits at the Brewer Arena assessment centre, as the demand for tests has nearly doubled in Ottawa over the past month. (Jean Delisle/CBC - image credit)

Eastern Ontario's children's hospital is now offering parents do-it-yourself COVID-19 test kits due to rising demand at Ottawa's test centres.

With children now back at school, and many too young to get vaccinated, the number of tests administered across the city has nearly doubled over the past month, said Jennifer Milburn, director of COVID response at CHEO.

Each day, about 2,500 tests are being administered at assessment centres across Ottawa, Milburn said. The CHEO-operated clinic at the Brewer Park Arena alone is administering 400 to 500 tests a day.

After hundreds of parents signed up to pick up testing kits this weekend at the Brewer site, CHEO is planning to increase its supply over the next week, Milburn said.

"We weren't sure about how much interest there would be in this, but there's been a ton," she said. "We probably distributed, just over the weekend, probably three to four hundred of these DIY tests."

How the test works

Parents can book appointments to pick up the tests at Brewer, and then either do it there or take them home and bring them back, Milburn said.

The test works by applying a swab to the tongue, the inside of the cheeks and just inside the nose for about five seconds each.

Parents or children themselves can administer the test. The swab is then placed in a test tube and dropped back off at the Brewer site.

If everything continues to operate smoothly, the kits will help increase testing capacity without putting too much strain on assessment centres, Milburn said.

Could have come sooner, says parent

The take-home tests are long overdue, said Rebecca Schein, a mother-of-two who said she waited in line at the Brewer Arena earlier this month with her two-year-old for more than two hours.

"We knew this fall there would be a surge in testing demand. I've been really frustrated that we didn't have more in place for that," Schein said.

"I'm glad that these home kits are now available but I don't know why they weren't as soon as school started."

To further alleviate the strain on local test centres, a temporary assessment centre has also opened at McNabb Arena for residents who are at least six months old.

The McNabb site will run until at least Sept. 29. Milburn said it's possible more testing centres could open as well.

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