Quicker COVID-19 test results for Windsor as local lab to handle tests for the first time in pandemic

·2 min read

For the first time since the pandemic began, a Windsor lab will start locally processing tests for the region on Monday.

That means a quicker turnaround for test results, which in turn means a faster response on positive cases: the health unit can contact trace sooner and an infected person will be able to isolate sooner.

Since March, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit has been sending the region's tests to a lab in London to be processed, but by next week the tests will be subjected to a much shorter drive and quicker processing time.

Medical Laboratories of Windsor says it applied for a testing license in March but didn't get approved until September. Since then, it's been waiting for the equipment to arrive.

Starting Monday, it will start processing about 100 tests per day. By the end of February, the lab hopes to process up to 1,000 tests a day as it will have an additional testing device up and running.

That means that by March, the lab said 1,100 tests will go through its machines, with the majority of results getting out same-day.

This will improve the result turnaround time as the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit said Friday that currently only 11 per cent of test results come back within 24 hours. And, according to provincial data, Windsor-Essex has some of the slowest test return rates in the province.

Katerina Georgieva/CBC
Katerina Georgieva/CBC

"I'm feeling very lucky to finally be able to perhaps join this battle," said Shannon Bondy, a microbiology molecular supervisor for Medical Laboratories of Windsor. "We have our most vulnerable in the community that we could possibly get results quicker to or just curb the spread."

Bondy has helped to set up the lab with the new devices and will be processing tests as they come in on Monday.

The lab's VP of operations Jennifer Yee said it feels like "we're contributing to the end of the pandemic."

"To me it really feels like it's a war and it kind of feels like we've been called up to defend our country or our community in this case," Yee said.

The lab has also already started rapid testing certain long-term care homes and groups and says it will continue to do that to curb any potential outbreaks.

As of Friday, Windsor-Essex has more than 2,700 active cases of the disease and 248 deaths. There are 45 COVID-19 outbreaks across the region, with 21 at workplaces and 20 at long-term care and retirement homes.