If you want a COVID test before Thanksgiving, don’t go to drive-thru sites, county says

By Brandon Block

The Olympian

Amid a surge of COVID-19 cases and wait times as long as 4-5 hours at Providence’s Hawks Prairie drive-thru testing site, Thurston County is advising people who want to get tested prior to holiday social gatherings to arrange it though their primary care provider and to avoid the two drive-thru testing locations.

In a letter to the community on Friday, Health Officer Dr. Dimyana Abdelmalek reiterated Gov. Jay Inslee’s new restrictions on public gatherings announced last Sunday. The governor’s guidance says not to gather indoors with people outside your household unless you quarantine for 14 days prior, or quarantine for seven days prior and receive a negative COVID-19 test result 48 hours before the gathering.

But because the county’s two drive-thru testing sites are so overloaded, those wishing to get tested just to attend social gatherings are being advised to seek testing elsewhere.

“If you’re somebody that wants to follow the governor’s guidance and quarantine for seven days and get a negative test result 48 hours before you go to a Thanksgiving dinner at grandma’s house, our testing sites are not going to test you,” said Magen Johnson, COVID-19 Public Information Officer for Thurston County Public Health and Social Services. “We do not have the capacity right now in our community to test people for those reasons.”

Johnson advised residents to contact their primary care providers instead, and check with their insurance company about coverage. She said insurance may not cover the test if you don’t have symptoms.

The Providence Hawks Prairie site has in the past limited its testing to people with symptoms and those preparing for a medical procedure. This morning, Providence announced that it plans to divert pre-procedure testing to other clinics to reduce the wait. Last week the site began turning people away when waits extended 4-5 hours and there were over 200 cars in line.

However, the other drive-thru testing site, SeaMar Community Health Center in west Olympia, will continue testing anyone, regardless of whether they have symptoms or not, according to Yasin Moussaoui, Health Center Administrator for the Olympia clinic, which is open only on Thursdays and Fridays. Other SeaMar testing locations are by appointment or only for people with symptoms.

There also are other testing sites in the county, including no-cost walk-up sites in Tenino, Rochester, and Olympia. But those sites will only test people with symptoms or close contacts of confirmed cases.

Friday’s cases

Thurston County health officials announced 52 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, and reported that one more person had died of the virus, a woman in her 70s.

Friday’s cases bring the county’s total to 2,736. Of those, 1,909 people have recovered or are recovering, 158 have been hospitalized at some point during their illness, and 43 have died, according to Thurston County Public Health and Social Services.

There are 11 ongoing congregate care center outbreaks, one less than yesterday.

In the region

— Grays Harbor County added 21 new cases and one new death Thursday night, giving the county 906 cases and 16 deaths.

— Lewis County reported 21 new cases on Friday for a total of 1,011 cases and 14 deaths.

— Mason County reported 17 additional cases on Friday for a total of 718 cases and 11 deaths.

— Pierce County announced 252 cases and one new death on Friday, a woman in her 70s from Tacoma with underlying health conditions. The county now has had 13,948 cases and 224 deaths.

Around the state, nation, and world

The state Department of Health reported 2,132 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 16 deaths on Friday. The state has now reported 139,543 cases and 2,619 deaths. In contrast, the state of New York has had the most deaths from COVID-19, with 34,252; Vermont has had the least, with 62.

In the U.S., more than 11.9 million cases had been reported with more than 254,000 deaths as of Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Globally, 57.5 million cases had been reported and 1.37 million people had died as of Friday, the data show.