I’m a first‑year Dal student. Here’s why I signed up to volunteer at a rapid‑testing site

- May 6, 2021

People line up to be swabbed for COVID-19 at a rapid-testing clinic located at the Halifax Convention Centre in late April. (Staff photo)
People line up to be swabbed for COVID-19 at a rapid-testing clinic located at the Halifax Convention Centre in late April. (Staff photo)

It feels like déjà vu. One year on and it’s happening again. Cases of COVID-19 begin to rise steadily in Nova Scotia a couple weeks ago, prompting strict restrictions on businesses, gatherings and movements in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.

Nova Scotia, which has been lauded by international experts for its handling of the pandemic, implemented widespread testing that is available to anyone. Since November of last year, public health officials have also deployed rapid tests at different sites around the province which promise results in around half an hour without the need for booking an appointment.

As I watched case counts begin to climb at the end of April, I heeded the calls of Chief Medical Officer Robert Strang and Premier Iain Rankin: go get tested. It was a pleasant day downtown as I, along with many other Haligonians, lined the sidewalks outside of the Halifax Convention Centre. At first glance the line seemed lengthy, but it didn’t take long until I was inside and swabbed.

The process was painless and fast, guided by extremely kind volunteers. I received my results not long afterwards via a text message. I was truly in awe of how efficient and well-run the rapid testing centre was. So, when I saw the next day on Instagram that they were in need of volunteers, I thought why not?

I quickly signed up and picked a volunteer shift processing tests for a few hours the next day. It seemed like the perfect way to give back to Nova Scotia and Nova Scotians as a Dal student who moved to Halifax from the United States for my education.

When I arrived, around thirty minutes before the doors opened to the public, I learned how to properly put on personal protective equipment and how to process the test (it’s kind of similar to a pregnancy test). For the next three and half hours straight, I tested swabs – all of them turning up negative.

More than 1,500 people poured through the convention centre doors that day, according to Dr. Lisa Barrett. A team of around 20 or so volunteers, donning those striking yellow gowns, all worked to swab our neighbors and process their tests.

Just like me, many Dal students have volunteered at rapid-testing centres in the third wave. The entire rapid-testing operation is staffed by community members. Volunteering is easy and rewarding.

As an American watching the pandemic unfold back at home for the last year, it’s been saddening to watch the tragic effects of widespread outbreaks. Nova Scotia, of course, has been a bright spot and living here has allowed me to live and study largely without worry of infection. Now that Nova Scotia is in need, it only seems right to give back.

See also: Pop‑up for the greater good: Dal doctor spearheads COVID rapid‑testing site on campus


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