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The U of O's COVID-19 Assessment Centre
Image: Bridget Coady/Fulcrum

Fulcrum Staff Writer Paige Holland writes of her experience getting tested for COVID-19 at the U of O assessment centre

Since opening on Sept. 9, the University of Ottawa’s new COVID-19 testing centre has been incredibly busy, with slots filled almost instantly by students and staff. The online booking portal only displays slots available for the next 72 hours, ensuring that students who have come in contact with a COVID-19 positive individual can be tested quickly. 

Luckily, when I booked my appointment I managed to get one for the next day (I booked at 1:30 a.m. and I’m guessing someone cancelled). Slots are every 15 minutes, and students or staff are required to have a student or employee ID number to book an appointment. Other students such as second-year student Julia Handley, also stayed up late to schedule an appointment, booking in the middle of the night. 

The testing centre is located at Lees Campus (200 Lees Avenue, Block D) and has numerous signs that direct you through the parking lot to a side door to access the testing centre. I was required to arrive with my health card and a mask, and at the front door a staff member checked that I had an appointment and asked me to sanitize my hands. 

The website for booking appointments does not ask people to specify if they are experiencing symptoms or not.“[I] was kind of concerned with the website, because the fact that it doesn’t actually ask me when I’m trying to book an appointment if I have symptoms or not,” said Handley. 

Which is true, I was not asked if I had symptoms until the second station in the gym. Persons with symptoms and persons without are in the same room. 

At the front check-in they asked if I resided in Ontario or Quebec and then I got a pamphlet that told me everything I needed to know about COVID-19. 

The pamphlet has a scale that determines your risk of having a positive COVID-19 result, and what to do in each scenario (who you should contact, how to self-isolate, and what to do while awaiting test results). There are guidelines about how to self-monitor for symptoms such as what symptoms to watch for (fever, cough, and shortness of breath) and how to care for mental health during a self-isolation period. 

There was information on how to check your test results. If the test returns negative, there is a website link in the pamphlet that updates test results. If the test returns positive, Ottawa Public Health will call you directly. Test results can usually take four to seven days to be processed.

After collecting the pamphlet, I was told to sanitize once more and directed down a hallway with barriers (to make sure I don’t touch anything). All the staff wore full personal protective equipment (PPE) (gloves, gown, mask, face shield) and sat on chairs covered in a plastic bag. They directed individuals down the hall into the gymnasium where three different stations were set up. 

The staff who work at U of O’s COVID-19 testing centre keep it incredibly well cleaned and organized, wiping down every surface any time it is touched and every five minutes.

I sat down, and they asked me for my health card (make sure to bring this) to confirm my address, phone number, email, and full name. Once I stood up, I had to turn around my chair so that the cleaning staff could wipe down anything I had touched – chair, table, floor, the whole nine yards. 

Next, I sat down at a bigger table with a printer, and another staff member in PPE. They then asked if I had traveled outside of Canada, been in contact with a presumed or confirmed case of COVID-19, and if I was experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19. Again, they wiped down everything I touched.

Finally, the moment I had been stressing over, my nasal swab. I was directed over to an opaque set of barriers meant to protect patients’ privacy while they swab deep into your brain. Once I mentioned I worked for the Fulcrum the nurse said that he would do the best nasal swab he could. I had to put my things onto a small table, and sanitize my hands once more. I sat down and the nurse asked me to lower my mask.

Thankfully, it’s just the one nostril they swab, and the nurse inserted the long q-tip-esque thing very deep into my nose and rotated it three times for a total of 10 seconds. Complete honesty, it was the longest 10 seconds of my life. He then offered me a tissue as my eyes were watering (or I was crying) quite a lot. 

Realistically, by the end, it just feels as if you got an insane amount of chlorinated pool water up your nose and then held it there for a while. While it is definitely worth it to get tested (please do if you’ve been in contact or feel sick) it definitely was not my favourite Monday afternoon activity. 

If anyone feels as if they may have been in contact with someone who is presumed to have or has COVID-19, have symptoms, or simply want to get tested for precautions please complete the Ontario’s COVID-19 self-assessment quiz, and then book an appointment with the University of Ottawa’s COVID-19 testing centre.