Miramichi mass testing clinic sees long lines as people wait in the cold

·3 min read
At one point Thursday, more then 120 people were in line outside a Miramichi school waiting for COVID-19 tests, while dozens more were in vehicles stretching down a nearby street.  (Shane Fowler/CBC - image credit)
At one point Thursday, more then 120 people were in line outside a Miramichi school waiting for COVID-19 tests, while dozens more were in vehicles stretching down a nearby street. (Shane Fowler/CBC - image credit)

Hundreds of people lined up in the cold outside a Miramichi middle school on Thursday for a COVID-19 mass testing clinic.

The province announced the walk-in clinic for those without COVID-19 symptoms would be held for two days after new cases in Zone 7, the Miramichi health region, and "the likelihood of a variant being present."

The testing, which is for people without symptoms and doesn't require an appointment, is aimed at detecting whether there has been further spread in the area.

At one point, dozens of vehicles were lined up along Henderson Street with people waiting to park. In the parking lot, more than 120 people were waiting in a line outside the building.

Dozens of vehicles were lined up on streets leading to the middle school as people waited to park before waiting in an outdoor line.
Dozens of vehicles were lined up on streets leading to the middle school as people waited to park before waiting in an outdoor line. (Shane Magee/CBC)

John Westlake said he was feeling "bloody cold" with a hoodie pulled tight around his face as wind whipped snow through the parking lot.

He later said the whole experience took about two and a half hours, including waiting in line and the test inside the school.

Several people like Noeleta Somers said it was their civic duty to get tested and were glad to see the turnout.

"I'm very happy to see all the people who came out to be tested," said Denise Doiron.

Miramichi Mayor Adam Lordon was happy to see the number of people who showed up for tests in a region that has had few COVID-19 cases over the past year.
Miramichi Mayor Adam Lordon was happy to see the number of people who showed up for tests in a region that has had few COVID-19 cases over the past year.(Shane Magee/CBC)

As of Thursday, there were seven active cases in the Miramichi health zone.

The latest series of cases are among the few that have been detected in the region. Over the last year, a total of 16 people have tested positive, according to provincial figures.

Mayor Adam Lordon said the new cases and a long list of potential exposure sites released by Public Health in the community this week were a new experience for the region a year into the pandemic.

"I think what you're seeing is an abundance of caution and people who may be feeling anxious about perhaps having been to one of those places at those times," Lordon said.

People wait in line outside Dr. Losier Middle School in Miramichi on Thursday for a COVID-19 mass testing clinic.
People wait in line outside Dr. Losier Middle School in Miramichi on Thursday for a COVID-19 mass testing clinic. (Shane Magee/CBC)

In a statement, Jean Daigle, Horizon's vice-president community, said the testing clinic was staffed by about 30 employees who included nurses, LPNs, paramedics and administrative support staff.

The clinic has the capacity to test 400 to 500 people per day, with Horizon's main testing clinic on Wellington Street in Miramichi able to test 150 to 200 people with COVID-19 symptoms per day.

As of Wednesday, Daigle said there were 15 Horizon staff off work because of COVID-19 related reasons, with seven of those in the Miramichi area.

Daigle said there has been no impact on care because of those who are off work.

The clinic is scheduled to continue Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.