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Lengthy vehicle lineups and increased traffic at COVID-19 testing sites have caught the attention of the city.
On Friday, Jason Shaw, Winnipeg’s assistant chief of emergency management, said the public works department has started a conversation with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority to see how traffic volumes could be improved at its four testing sites.
"We are hopefully going to be able to work with them to be able to figure out a better way to reroute traffic... just to make sure it’s a little bit safer. We’re keeping a close eye on it," Shaw said.
As the number of COVID-19 cases rises — 29 new infections were identified in Winnipeg Friday — Shaw said city officials have made note of increased foot and vehicle traffic around testing sites, and they want to be sure people can access a test or move through their neighbourhood safely.
Shaw said drivers can lose focus of their surroundings while waiting in a lengthy line, and he’s seen examples of vehicles blocking intersections while in the queue.
"I’d hate to see a car surge forward to close the gap in a lineup and not double check to make sure that there’s no one around and crossing through an intersection," Shaw said.
The WRHA operates four COVID-19 testing sites in the city: a drive-thru site in the St. John’s neighbourhood at 1284 Main St., walk-up screening locations at Thunderbird House (751 Main St.) and a WRHA office at 2745 Pembina Hwy., and at a closed civic building at 604 St. Mary’s Rd.
All have seen high volumes over the past week and at times, turned people away after reaching capacity early in the day. On Friday, the Main Street drive-thru site reached capacity at 2 p.m., while the Pembina location began turning people away at 3 p.m. The health authority’s two other sites accepted clients until their scheduled closure at 4 p.m.
Mayor Brian Bowman said people at testing sites need to be cautious when travelling through the area and pay attention to speed, parking, loading restrictions and pedestrians.
"Keep in mind that people are being turned away from some of these testing sites, and so there is a level of anxiety... Whatever we can do to work with the provincial government to mitigate those traffic issues," Bowman said.
The public works department has also offered its expertise, and a tool kit, to school divisions to develop traffic management plans that take into account COVID-19 precautions and physical distancing, Bowman said.
In particular, traffic volumes have increased around elementary and middle schools as more children are dropped off by parents instead of taking the bus. Staggered entry times for classes mean more students are waiting outdoors, on sidewalks and near boulevards before heading into school.
"The decisions that are being made in schools and in school divisions are having an affect on the corresponding streets," Bowman said.
"We know things are moving in real time with schools and school boards, and we want to make sure that they know we are a partner for them to make sure we’re all collectively trying to protect the safety of our students."
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.
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