EDMONTON -- James Umphrey had a fever, believed to be a side effect of a tooth infection. His dentist wanted to be sure it wasn’t a symptom of COVID-19, so he redirected Umphrey.

“Easier to be safe for the dentist and anybody else,” said Umphrey, “They just want to make sure I haven’t contracted it.”

That brought him to the Mil Woods area of the city where Edmonton’s only COVID-19 drop-in testing site is located.

“We’re seeing a combination of people with symptoms and without so that’s kind of the change,” registered nurse Jocelyn Tews told CTV between tests.

In its first day of operation Wednesday, staff at the drop-in site performed 502 total tests, which included 333 scheduled appointments and 223 drop-ins. There were also 54 no-shows. Tews herself says she tests approximately eight people per hour, or 50 per day.

“And then I have to sanitize my station so that it’s ready for the next person,” she said, “Take off my protective equipment and then I go and put on a new set so that I can take the next client.”

For those with appointments, the process takes about a half hour from start to finish. “The drop-ins a little bit longer just depending on the volume. I don’t think people are waiting more than an hour," said Tews.

And despite an earlier, more-invasive version of the testing procedure, this one only requires swabbing the back of the throat in three places, according to Tews. 

“I mean it tickles and you may gag a little bit,” laughed Umphrey. “I was expecting ‘Okay here we go giant stick in my nose’ but no it was very easy.” 

The drop-in testing site is located at the Edmonton South Assessment Centre at 7319 29 Avenue.