Get tested for COVID-19 in Dartmouth without leaving the car

Signal reporter describes her experience at the winterized garage clinic

It’s once again possible to go for a drive and get a nasal swab test for COVID-19 in the comfort of your car.

The winterized drive-thru testing clinic in Dartmouth opened Jan. 5. Open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., it can accommodate 500 people a day.

When the Nova Scotia government announced Friday that anyone who had been to New Brunswick should get tested, I decided to head to the garage at 7 Mount Hope Ave.

I booked an appointment online for the clinic, the only one of its kind in the province. There were many time slots available. I booked the same day and got an appointment an hour later. With the help of Google Maps and signs posted on the roads, the facility was easy to find.

As I pulled in, I followed the arrows directing me where to line up. There was no one ahead of me so I drove ahead to the booths.

The check-in booths at the drive-thru testing clinic.   Emily McRae

They look like booths at the bridge tolls or in ticketed parking lots. A health-care worker took down my health card number, name, phone number and email address. Then I pulled up ahead and waited outside the testing garage.

A sign stated I had to wait until the doors are fully open. There was a car inside the facility already, so I had a short wait of approximately two minutes. When the door opened, I was directed to a specific post in the garage.

Drivers need to pull up to this post inside the drive-thru.   Emily McRae

I rolled down my window and gave a worker my information to verify that I had an appointment. She calmly described the entire testing procedure. I had a rapid test in the fall, so I had a rough idea of what to expect. She gave me a pamphlet on what to do as you await your results (spoiler alert: self isolate).

The inside of the testing garage.   Emily McRae

I sat in the driver’s seat while I was getting the nasal swab. The test wasn’t painful and felt like water going up your nose or a nosebleed. After the test was completed, I thanked the woman and waited for the garage door in front of me to open.

The entire process took less than 10 minutes. The test results were emailed to me a little more than 24 hours later.

Harold Taylor, the health services manager at the Dartmouth General Hospital, says the drive-through testing model has been successful. There’s no parking, no standing in line and no contact with other people getting tested.

People are “much more relaxed, much more laid back because they’re in their own environment,” he said in a phone interview.

No walk-ups are allowed. You have to wear a mask the whole time even when you’re waiting in your car. Nova Scotia Health recommends you go alone to your appointment, but there’s no ban on having someone else in the car with you.

The first drive-thru testing clinic opened in Dartmouth during the first wave of COVID-19. It closed in November due to safety risks associated with colder temperatures.

I wasn’t the only one who tried the new winterized clinic; 910 people were tested in the first week. 

Don’t have a car? You can book a standard COVID-19 test at four other locations in Halifax and Dartmouth. If you are asymptomatic and haven’t been to an exposure location, pop-up rapid testing clinics use the same nasal swab but produce results within an hour.

Common symptoms of COVID-19 are a fever, cough, headaches, fatigue, and loss of smell and taste. If you are experiencing these symptoms, visit the Nova Scotia Health website to find your closest testing clinic and book an appointment.

There were eight new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the total number of active cases in Nova Scotia to 30.

Emily McRae

Emily McRae is a journalist based out of Halifax, Nova Scotia.

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