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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

There's a new way to track wait times at COVID-19 testing centres in Toronto

Wait times will likely be in your fuure if visiting a COVID-19 testing centre in Toronto is on your to-do list.

Ontario is officially in the midst of its second wave of the pandemic —one that will allegedly be worse than the first wave, according Premier Ford — with new coronavirus cases jumping across the province. 

Testing is now limited to those experiencing symptoms, vulnerable populations, and contacts of known cases, regardless of symptoms. 

If you fall under one of those categories, it might make sense to check in with a site called COVID Waits: a new crowd-sourced web app that provides live wait times at assessment centres in the GTA. 

covid 19 testing centre toronto

COVID Waits is a new crowd-sourced web app that lets users know estimated wait times at assessment centres. Photo via COVID Waits.

The app, created by Benjamin Harris, a start-up consultant, launched last week. It doesn't track its users, nor is it monetized.

Right now it includes about 20 assessment centres sourced from the City of Toronto website, along with some locations in Peel and York region. 

As of writing, the web app has minimal usage (just 1 user reported for Sunnybrook Health Sciencs Centre, which says 2 hours, or Michael Garron Hospital, which, according to another user, currently needs a 5-hour wait). 

But like any crowd-sourced information, the more Torontonians start using it, the better. 

"I'm just hoping that people use it, post, and contribute to it, and help their fellow Torontonians that need to get tested as quickly as possible," says Harris. 

"I wish someone had told me before I left the house that it would be a four to five hour wait. I wish there was a better system then just polling my friends and finding random tips and rumours."

COVID Wait is Harris' first major coding project, inspired by his own frustrating testing experience that took all day and two different assessment centres in Etobicoke, then Brampton. 

While there are no guarantees, Harris hopes that the info will help people make more informed choices about where to go for testing.

Those in line can help by inputting rough estimates gleaned from security guards or other people in the queue, or when they're done their test.

"Ideally the app becomes useless," he says. "Ideally more testing spots get opened up so that this doesn't become an issue, you don't have to plan your whole day around it." 

COVID Wait can be accessed from any web browser on your cellphone or on desktop. 

by Tanya Mok via blogTO

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