Toronto man creates website to help track COVID-19 test wait times
TORONTO -- Aside from the swab itself, for many residents of the Greater Toronto Area, the biggest pain in getting a COVID-19 test has been the wait.
"I went out to the Etobicoke drive-thru and was quoted a five-hour wait from the get go," Ben Harris told CTV News Toronto. "So frantically I went searching through my friends, messaging people, trying to find things online about somewhere else where I could go to get a test."
Harris got a tip that he'd find shorter wait times in Brampton, but after spending the better part of a day trying to get tested, he realized there must be a better way.
"My takeaway was, I wish someone would have told me that the Etobicoke drive-thru was five hours before I left my house, and the second thing was I wish there was a way that I could check the wait times before I went so that I could make the most informed decision about where to go."
Not finding any such resource, Harris decided to create his own. The Toronto start-up consultant designed and launched a website called covidwaits.com. The site crowdsources information about wait times.
"In line, once you're already there suffering through the wait time, hopefully you can post something to help out a fellow Torontonian so that they don't have to go through the same experience that you're going through,” Harris explained.
The website lists hospitals and health-care centres across the GTA that are offering COVID-19 tests, along with the current wait times, and other information that could be useful for those looking to get tested. Harris said the more people who upload wait times, the more accurate the site will be.
"This works its best when we have people from every single testing centre uploading their wait time—and not only just one, the more credibility we have is with multiple people uploading their wait times so that you can see, and it does say on the site, four people, five people, all kind of corroborating what the wait time is, so that you can feel good that the information is accurate."
Harris said he designed the site so that privacy wouldn't be a concern for users.
"I don't want to know anything about anybody. All I want to know is what testing centre you're referring to and what the wait time is. Other than that, nothing. There's no login, there's no user tracking, nothing."
And Harris said he's not monetizing the website. His only reward will be helping others.
"The experience that I had is not a unique one and I know there's a lot people going through a similar thing,” he said. “I know that during this pandemic we're all in this together, we all have something to contribute. So I figured this is something I can contribute and hopefully it does help out."