“Great Feeling”: COVID-19 Assessment Center at Oakridge Arena closes on July 16


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One of the city’s two COVID-19 assessment centers will be permanently closed due to a steady decline in test demand and local case numbers, a milestone in the pandemic and evidence of community collaboration, the Mayor of London says.

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The COVID-19 testing site at Oakridge Arena will close on July 16 as its operators continue to operate the larger assessment center at the Carling Heights Optimist Community Center.

“It really makes it feel like something is changing in our global pandemic experience,” said Mike McMahon, executive director of the Thames Valley Family Health Team.

“It’s a great feeling to finish an assessment center because there aren’t enough people to test it. It’s a really great feeling. “

The Oakridge Assessment Center opened on March 16, 2020 as the first of two in town. Days later, the assessment center at the Carling Heights Optimist Community Center joined them.

The line of people searching for COVID-19 tests in the Assessment Center at Oakridge Arena extends from the parking lot to Valetta Street on Tuesday, March 17, 2020.  The center's operators announced on Wednesday that it would be closing due to lower demand for testing.  Derek Ruttan / The London Free Press
The line of people searching for COVID-19 tests in the Assessment Center at Oakridge Arena extends from the parking lot to Valetta Street on Tuesday, March 17, 2020. The center’s operators announced on Wednesday that it would be closing due to lower demand for testing. Derek Ruttan / The London Free Press

“When I think of March 2020 when the doors opened here for the first time, it was a different time. We were only a week or two away from life as we knew it. . . . There was so much we didn’t know about the virus, what we were dealing with and how to get rid of it. We reached out to you, ”said Mayor Ed Holder on Wednesday at a thank you event for the site’s employees.

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“We were scared, but you showed up. You changed the lives of so many people every day. “

The locations are operated by the Thames Valley Family Health Team and the London Health Sciences Center in collaboration with the Middlesex-London Health Unit, Middlesex-London Paramedic Services and the City of London.

The Oakridge site has less capacity than the Carling Heights Assessment Center and is closed on weekends and holidays. There were 27 people working at the site each day, McMahon said. As of Wednesday, the Oakridge site was operational for 335 days, compared with 468 days in Carling.

Some of the Thames Valley Family Health Team at the Oakridge Assessment Center will join the Carling team. Others will join the vaccine rollout by joining the team at the Earl Nichols Arena mass vaccination center, Middlesex-London health doctor Chris Mackie said Wednesday.

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The Oakridge Assessment Center, which was set up in just a few weeks last year, is a shining example of what is possible when people come together, Mackie said.

“We live in a community where, when asked to do hard things, people stand up and say, ‘Yes, I’ll be there,’” he said.

“When the City of London was asked if we could have some space for this really important ministry, they said, ‘Yes, we will be there to help.’ When the Thames Valley Family Health Team was asked to take the lead, they said, “We’ll be there, we’ll help.” . . . These are the people you want on your team. “

The number of people tested for COVID-19 each week in London and Middlesex County has declined since early April as the variant-driven third wave neared its peak.

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In the week of April 4, the London area health unit reported that 10,695 people had been tested for COVID-19. By the week of June 20, the latest date data is available, the number has fallen by almost half to 4,942 people tested.

The London area set a COVID-19 test record at the height of the second wave in the week of January 3, when 12,943 people were tested.

Even without Oakridge’s online assessment center, London and Middlesex Counties will be able to test about 800 people each day if necessary, McMahon said.

In addition to the Carling location, which has approximately 600 people tested daily, COVID-19 tests are available at the MyHealth Testing Center at 279 Wharncliffe Rd. and by some general practitioners. Asymptomatic tests are also available at some pharmacies.

The Middlesex-London Health Unit reported 10 new COVID-19 cases and no additional deaths on Wednesday, the first double-digit day since June 17.

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