Hamilton ramps up COVID-19 testing capabilities ahead of return to school

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Published August 31, 2021 at 10:32 am

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With school back in session in a little over a week, Hamilton’s Public Health Services is ramping up COVID-19 testing capabilities in anticipation of an uptick in demand.

On Monday (Aug. 30), Hamilton’s one COVID-19 testing clinic, located at Mohawk College at 135 Fennell Ave. W expanded its hours and its daily capacity to 1,000 tests.

“Hamilton’s COVID-19 Testing and Assessment Centres have experienced a strong increase in COVID testing and continue to prepare for an increase in COVID-19 testing volumes in September when students return to school,” Hamilton’s COVID Response Table told IntheHammer in an email.

“Plans are underway for additional location(s) to further expand capacity which will be announced in the future.”

In mid-July, Hamilton’s West and East End COVID assessment centres closed down permanently when local demand for testing slowed to a trickle.

Recent days, however, have seen a steady increase in the number of new cases as the fourth wave of the virus, fuelled by the especially contagious Delta variant and lagging vaccination rates, takes hold across the province.

Hamilton in particular has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the province and the second-worst COVID-19 positivity rate in Ontario at 6.53 per cent, which is more than double the provincial average of 2.90.

In an effort to encourage vaccine uptake and slow the spread of the virus, many businesses, organizations and municipalities are introducing vaccine mandates requiring proof of vaccination status or proof of a negative COVID-19 test.

Even Hamilton’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, ‘strongly’ recommended on Monday that local businesses address a COVID-19 workplace vaccination policy.

Vaccination policies are expected to add to testing demand but that kind of asymptomatic testing will not be carried out at Hamilton’s COVID-19 assessment centre(s).

“Testing Centres will only test those who fall within the Ontario provincial guidelines (symptomatic testing),” the Table said in the email.

“The Testing Centre is not permitted and does not provide any swabs or testing required for travel or to attend/participate/gain entry to public events (i.e. sporting events, concerts, etc.).”

That kind of testing will be accessed via pharmacies or labs offering asymptomatic testing. A list of those locations can be found here.

“Symptomatic testing will also continue to take place to assist vulnerable populations such as those in long-term care facilities and retirement homes, and homeless individuals,” the email said.

“Mobile testing teams will continue to be operated by Hamilton Paramedic Service for those who are homebound.”

More direction is expected to come from Ontario Health West in the coming days in regards to expanded testing capabilities, but in the meantime, more information about obtaining a COVID-19 test in Hamilton and booking an appointment can be found on the City’s website.

The St. Joseph’s Health Care Hamilton Mountain COVID-19 Testing Centre’s (at Mohawk College) new operating hours are Mon-Fri: 8 AM to 10:30 PM and from 8 AM to 4 PM Saturdays and Sundays. Tests are conducted by appointment only.

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