Thank God for Our COVID Testers
By Grant Ainsley | Tips | [comments] | Posted [date]
I had two things in common with US President Trump last week - both of us were ill and got COVID tests. That's where the similarities end, because I tested negative.
As I was going through the testing centre, I looked around at a team of workers and suddenly, all the politics about COVID seemed to disappear. The people there didn't care about the political side of the discussion, they just wanted others to get tested as quickly and accurately as possible.
I felt grateful that I live in a province where I could get a test and be part of the million plus who have.
A Million Tests
Last Monday, Health Minister Tyler Shandro made a rare cameo appearance at a Dr. Deena Hinshaw news conference to announce Alberta had passed a COVID testing milestone, as more than a million tests had been completed.
Shandro went on to call Alberta a “national leader” when it came to testing and pointed out how it was the first to do this, or the best at doing that – basically the type of stuff a politician always talks about. When anyone uses terms like “strongest”, or “most dynamic” testing system in the country, I always want to see verification, but that’s a minor point. Reaching a million COVID tests is a pretty neat accomplishment.
Reaction was interesting. The media certainly covered that angle from the news conference, but a person on Twitter, who I believe was a journalist, thought it was bad form by Shandro that he started the news conference by bragging about the testing milestone, when several outbreaks were taking place, including a serious one at a Shepherd’s Care facility in Edmonton.
I replied on Twitter that he was just doing his job. It’s the job of reporters to ask him questions about the outbreak, if they feel that’s the important story, which of course it is. A politician, unless they want to make a pre-emptive strike, is never going to come out and talk about the negative news, they’ll talk about what they want to talk about and wait for reporters to ask them the tough questions. That’s the way the game works.
I thought about that scenario two days later when I stood in line to get a COVID test at what’s known as the Edmonton South Assessment Centre at what used to be the Grant McEwan campus in Mill Woods.
Two days before, I felt the flu coming on. I felt tired, my muscles ached and I felt lethargic. I hoped with a good night’s sleep I would feel better, but I woke up early feeling worse. I texted a friend to cancel golf that day and booked a COVID test for the following day.
I had been at the centre a month before. This time the lineup was much shorter, but the staff working there were just as friendly and professional as before.
I was greeted by a man at the door in full PPE, who checked off my name and welcomed me inside much like a friendly Wal-Mart greeter.
Within a few minutes of walking through the door, I sat down to do the test and let out a slight groan when the woman doing the test told me it was a nasal swab. I told her the first time I had it, it felt like the person was trying to poke the end of the stick through my forehead. We both had a laugh and she told me she understood and said a woman recently leaned so far back when the sample was being taken that her chair almost toppled over. Fortunately, this time the test was a lot easier to handle than the first.
Finally, a worker at the door thanked me for coming and gave me my third batch of hand sanitizer in 16 minutes. I was home less than an hour after I left.
No Politics in Testing
As I drove home, I thought about how efficient the testing centre was. Different people handling different jobs inside and outside the school’s old gymnasium. From the security guard who gave me hand sanitizer and a clean disposable mask outside the gym, to the woman who said goodbye and pointed me to the door, it’s a slick system with people doing their best to get others in and out as possible.
That’s just the start of course. The samples have to be analyzed, recorded and results have to be sent to the people who gave them. This time it took three days for me to receive the result, but the last time I was tested, I got the result back in less than 24 hours. I was negative both times, by the way.
I also thought about how what should only be a public health story has got so political. The people working in the testing centre don’t care about politics, they’re just trying to do their jobs to keep others safe and informed. Little did I know that in a little over 24 hours later Donald Trump would announce he had tested positive for the virus and the following day be taken to hospital. The political side of the public health story was about to go through the roof.
My God we take things for granted. Imagine what life would be like if we didn’t have the testing system we do? Imagine if we had to pay for tests, or if it took weeks to get the results back, or worse yet – if there wasn’t such a thing as a COVID test?
While I understand the system isn’t perfect, especially in certain parts of Canada, it has come a long way in seven months. The testing system will only get better and results will come faster.
I think a million tests in a province is something to celebrate, whether it’s the lede story, or gets buried by others.
I’m happy to live in a country where I can book a test online, take it the next day and get the result sent to me in a text. And I got a free disposal mask to boot.
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