Students turned away from Western University campus testing centre due to overwhelming demand
LONDON, ONT. -- As word spread of five Western University students testing positive over the weekend, the lineups grew at the mobile assessment centre on campus on Monday.
"We heard some people testing positive who were friends of friends, so we thought it would be smart to get tested before seeing other people," says Western University student Andrew Jorgensen, who was waiting in line.
He was among hundreds who were waiting, with a lineup that stretched from behind the University Community Centre around the building to the library.
Many arrived hours before the testing trailer opened at 10:30 a.m.
"When I see the number of students that have come out to get tested, it tells me that Western University students take this situation very seriously," says Jennifer Massey, Western's associate vice-president of student experience.
"They are prepared to stand in line for a couple hours because we are all committed to keeping each other safe."
However not everyone student was committed. The recent outbreak consisted of students who had yet to visit campus, but had interactions at downtown bars and with people in neighbouring student residences.
A video appeared this weekend on social media which showed Richmond Street packed with people. That was concerning for some in line who had been downtown.
"We went out with a group of guys to the patio," says Connor Hall, a Western student. "We had about 10-15 guys and when you are with people who have been with other people, your bubble obviously increases."
The mobile site on campus has the ability to test 220 students per day. But within an-hour-and-a-half of opening, Western had already hit its capacity, either in the centre or in line, and gave anyone else in line a red ticket so they could leave and return in a few hours.
Journalism student Elizabeth Lam had class in the morning and arrived to the line around noon. However, it was too late.
"They told me that they were full, and to come back another day later in the week," says Lam. "I thought I'd be fine getting here an hour-and-a-half after opening, but when I came around the corner and saw the long lineup I just gasped."
Some say the long waits both on campus and at city community centres shows a need for more assessment sites.
Ross Romano, Ontario's minister of colleges and universities, told the media Monday that more sites will be continue to be a priority of his government. In the meantime he encourages students to follow COVID-19 guidelines and protocols.
"When starting school we know it's 'Frosh Week' and students want to have fun, but they need to be responsible," says Romano. "Be mindful because the decisions you make will impact others."
That's a quote that resonates with student Levi Smith who has come from Burlington to attend Western. He says he know an outbreak on campus was bound to happen, but is concerned about the rapid pace each case can grow.
"Back home the case counts aren't as significant," says Smith.
"If we come up here and aren't as cautious as we should be then this is what happens. With all the people coming together, it's bound to spread...As people get connected It's a little different here and people need to change what they are doing pretty quick."