By Jaymie L. White
Special to Wreckhouse Press
WEST COAST – The Port Aux Basques Lions Club is doing its part to assist individuals in the region get access to COVID-19 rapid tests. Through the Canadian Red Cross ‘Stop the Spread and Stay at Home Safe’ campaign, test kits and N95 face masks are provided to not-for-profit organizations that have a connection to vulnerable populations within their communities.
Sharon Williston with the Stephenville Lions Club was the individual who applied to get the masks and rapid tests for both the Stephenville and Port Aux Basques Lions Clubs.
“To be eligible the organization must be a charity or non-profit organization, must have clients that they regularly serve or have partner organizations that have clients who are regularly served. It works for the Lions Clubs because we do a lot of work through our various community cafes, especially here in Stephenville. We volunteer with the food bank, and we have connections with other organizations that can help get them into the hands of folks who wouldn’t have them otherwise.”
Williston said that Newfoundland and Labrador is one of only three provinces throughout Canada where people are being charged to purchase COVID rapid tests.
“If you have a child in school, you have access that way, but if you don’t have a child in school, you don’t have access to free tests. So we were trying to break down that barrier so that more people could test at home.”
Williston said the cost of these rapid tests is an extra that not everyone can afford.
“One of the organizations different from the Lions Club that I helped to apply for this is the Benoit’s Cove Native Women’s Association and they were telling me, when I was talking with them last week, that in their community, that very same rapid test, to go in and buy it at a drugstore, with taxes, is roughly $57. Oh, they’re expensive. It’s a barrier for a lot of people to be able to do these tests and we’re trying to remove some of those barriers. When I saw this opportunity that was shared with me, I thought, ‘okay, who can I share this with,’ so the Stephenville Lion’s Club, the Port Aux Basques Lion’s Club, and I’m going to be helping out some other clubs and organizations applying for it as well.”
Williston said that as long as the Lions Clubs have a supply, they will make the test available to anyone in need.
“With the cost of living right now, the groceries and the gas, we are trying to take a barrier away. Part of our responsibility is we must be willing to distribute the tests and the masks and the necessary information, which is a handout that goes along with it to explain how it works. We have to report every two weeks on how many rapid tests have been distributed and hopefully we’ll get more in the future.”
Each organization receives four cases of rapid tests, meaning approximately 430 rapid test kits, which come five to a box, and four cases of face masks, 192 boxes of 20 per box, and Williston said organizations will have to have access to a physical address in order to have them shipped.
“If you have a PO Box, or if you’re in a rural area where you have site boxes, it can be more cumbersome to get. So try to partner with a neighbouring community that does have a physical address that these boxes can arrive at, and then transport it there. For rural Newfoundland and Labrador that would be the one obstacle that I could see.”
Williston said people are appreciative and relieved to have access to the free rapid tests.
“It’s making sure people have access to be able to do this testing. To get a PCR test right now, a lot of people are telling me it is very difficult. And people want to know, not just assume that if you’re a close contact with someone and you have symptoms, you are a positive case. That doesn’t rest well with a lot of people. So having access to those COVID rapid tests helps to alleviate some of that stress and that anxiety.”
Val Clarke with the Port Aux Basques Lions Club said this program is perfect for the Lions Club because they are all about service and giving back to the community.
“With the shortage of kits that are available to various groups like fire departments, seniors, everywhere, we thought this was a prime opportunity to be able to give back.”
Clarke said, in the world we live in today, she feels for the seniors and individuals on fixed incomes around the province.
“How are they ever making it through these rough times? COVID is still moving. It’s still on the go. It would’ve been great if we could’ve accessed these 12 months ago, but unfortunately we couldn’t. So now that they’ve become available and we have the option to get them, I’m certainly sure they will benefit people. It’s a preventative measure for us all.”
Clarke said there was a mix up that caused a delay in shipping, and even though they were supposed to receive their tests within two weeks, they were waiting for about a month for their shipment, which was ordered on Apr. 13, to arrive.
“As long as there is a need, we’ll continue to bring them in because that’s what we’re all about as Lions. It’s an opportunity for us to give back to our communities and do what we do best, serving our area.”
By Friday, May 13, Clarke said all COVID tests and masks had arrived and were subsequently distributed by the Port Aux Basques Lions Club. The hope is to get more soon.