Building on the June launch of Citywide testing that has thus far administered more the 80,000 COVID-19 tests, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced the third Citywide testing site – a walk-up location at Rainier Beach High School in south Seattle.
According to Durkan, Rainier Beach has one of the highest density BIPOC communities in Seattle, and Citywide testing will add more days of the week, hours of the day, and increase capacity ten-fold by up to 4,000 tests per week. Durkan also announced a fourth site is currently under planning for the Southwest Seattle community.
“Seattle is leading the nation in pioneering innovative testing strategies and free citywide testing of our most vulnerable individuals and communities of color who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. The combination of testing and our actions is saving lives, but we also must face the reality that we will be dealing with this pandemic until at least next year,” said Mayor Durkan. “It is up to each of us make to protect ourselves, families, neighbors, coworkers and community, so we need to mask up, physical distance, wash your hands, and get tested when experiencing symptoms or exposed to people with COVID illness.”
On June 4, Mayor Durkan announced a partnership implementing free citywide testing at two drive-up locations in north and south Seattle, with plans to open a third location. To date, the City has administrated well over 2,000 tests per day and in less than two months more than 80,000 in total, accounting for 15 percent of tests conducted statewide since June. With these sites, the City of Seattle has nine of the ten highest per capita testing areas in King County.
The Rainier Beach site is currently staffed by the UW Mobile Clinic on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. but the demand has consistently outpaced their capacity. Furthermore, with potential funding gaps, they are scheduled to leave the site in early August.
Nearly 40 percent of Rainier Beach households are comprised of Black and Latinx families which are the most acutely impacted by COVID-19 – representing the highest COVID-19 infection and mortality rates. Recognizing this, the City moved quickly to ensure there would not be a gap in service and to increase capacity. City of Seattle citywide testing will operate five days per week, Mondays and Wednesdays – Saturdays, from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Officials believe up to 800 tests can be administered per day – a 10-fold increase of up to 4,000 tests per week.
“Along with critical community actions like physical distancing and wearing a facial covering, testing is one key to fighting COVID-19, and that’s why expanding access in areas such as south Seattle is so important,” said Patty Hayes, Director of Public Health – Seattle & King County. “If you know you’ve been exposed to the virus or if you have symptoms, please stay home and away from others – except to go to your testing appointment. By self-quarantining, you’re protecting family and friends and helping us all succeed at re-opening King County.”
Like the Aurora and SoDo drive-up locations, clients at the walk-up Rainier Beach testing site will not be charged and will not receive a bill, regardless of health insurance status. For insured clients, UW Medicine will handle the billing of an individuals’ private insurance, Medicaid, or Medicare. Under Washington law, insurance companies cannot charge co-pays for COVID-19 testing. For uninsured clients, UW Medicine will seek reimbursement directly from the federal, Families First Coronavirus Response Act Relief Fund for the cost of the test.
In recent weeks, Governor Inslee has rolled back his Safe Start Washington plan as COVID-19 cases have increased substantially. In King County, positive cases increased four-fold representing the highest seven-day average of case counts since April, prior to the Governor’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy order.
Testing along with robust contact tracing efforts is widely acknowledged as one of the most important ways to protect communities from the spread of COVID-19. Durkan continues to fiercely advocate for the federal government to rapidly increase testing supplies including testing reagents, an important component for labs to process the samples being taken and return results in a timely manner.
Residents wanting to be tested are encouraged to schedule an appointment online at http://www.seattle.gov/mayor/covid-19/covid-19-testing in order to help keep wait times at the testing facilities to 10 minutes or less.