Throughout the past year and half, Nova Scotia has been focused on early detection of COVID-19 cases. To begin with that meant many Pop-up Rapid Testing sites – staffed by volunteers, in locations where the presence of CoVID-19 was suspected. I helped out with that effort, registering people as they came in. I did that for a couple of months until the number of cases declined, and while a couple of testing sites continued, they were downtown and difficult for me to get to, so I stopped volunteering.
On Nov 9, I joined the Rapid Testing “Test To Protect” effort. For a couple of months volunteers had been making up rapid testing kits for distribution to the airport but the effort ramped up in late October when the NS Department of Health decided to issue kits to school children in order to pick up early warning of COVID-19 spreading among unvaccinated school-age kids. I decided it was time I helped out again. So a couple of times a week, until last week when TTP closed down for the holidays, I helped assemble Rapid Test Kits.
You wouldn’t think putting a few bits and pieces into plastic bags would take much effort – but it did. A four hour shift doesn’t seem like a lot of time – but it was.
When you walked into the assembly room (a large open space with 25 tables – one person at a table, , hands sanitized, wearing a mask) the walls were lined with large labelled boxes – some holding test kit stuff, others already packed with test kits ready for distribution, and on tables dividing the room a WALL of small boxes containing what you needed to make either 30 or 15 kits depending on the batch we were preparing.
You started by adding labels to the bags explaining the “expiry” date on the test strips could safely be ignored. Next you carefully laid out the test components (swabs, test strips, small vials with testing solution) so you could pick up what you needed to place in each bag. Then you filled and sealed each bag and placed it back in the original box.
We started out assembling 30 single test kits; we progressed to 15 double test kits – these to be handed out to arriving passengers at the airport. Working as quickly as I could, it still took me slightly more than 15 minutes to do a single box of test kits. The assembling took a lot of repetitive physical effort (the tables were a bit too high for me – I found it less stressful on my back and shoulders to stand when filling the bags). More difficult was the concentration required to make sure you put the precise number of each component into each bag! You didn’t want to end up short something or to have something left over – that meant you had to go back through all 15 or 30 bags to find where the error had happened! Each bag needed to have the exact number of swabs, vials with testing solution, and testing strips!
I breathed a sigh of relief every time I finished a set of bags neither short something or with any component left over.
In three and a half months, hundreds of volunteers have managed to assemble well over 500,000 test kits for kids and arriving passengers at the airport. A herculean effort. We don’t know yet whether we’ll be called back into action in January but I’m sure everybody who helped out will return, particularly since Omicron looks like it’s set to take off like wildfire here in the province as it has everywhere else.