EVERETT — Thursday could be the last day to get swabbed at the county’s only government-funded drive-thru COVID-19 test site at Everett Memorial Stadium.
Snohomish Health District officials are expected to announce Friday whether the state and county will prop up another site — either at the stadium or elsewhere — but that appears to be unlikely, health district spokeswoman Heather Thomas said.
If the site closes for good, the Everett Clinic would operate the only drive-thru testing in the county, in Everett and Smokey Point.
The Snohomish Health District plans on using leftover kits to test residents of long-term care facilities and the homeless, in tandem with a statewide plan to test all residents and staff at every care home in the state with confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to a letter from the state Department of Social and Health Services obtained by The Daily Herald. Tests from the county could be available for some care homes next week. County health officials plan to roll out details Friday about which long-term care facilities will receive the remaining tests from the federal supply.
“We’re trying to focus on those areas that haven’t met the (testing) criteria,” Thomas said. “With the limited supplies we do have right now, we have to target those people who are most at risk.”
At the same time, state and federal leaders are calling for widespread testing before they can relax social distancing measures and reopen businesses without seeing the virus surge back.
Locally, that level of testing won’t be available any time soon, Thomas said.
In a little over three weeks, more than 2,100 people were tested for the virus at Everett Memorial Stadium, a site set up with support from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But the federal aid is gone and the Everett site is closing.
An anticipated closure last week was extended a few days.
As of Wednesday, the cumulative number of Washington confirmed cases of COVID-19 was 10,783, with 567 deaths, according to the state Department of Health. In Snohomish County, the health district reported 1,988 known cases so far and 80 deaths.
More than 250 of the county’s cases come from long-term care homes, which have seen some of the deadliest outbreaks.
Having the tests will allow care home operators to separate those who test positive from those who test negative.
“It is a big deal,” said Diane Lopes, administrator of Sunrise View Retirement Villa and Convalescent Center in Everett, which as of Wednesday had 55 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 15 deaths.
The tests may help spot trends that could be helpful in containing the spread of the virus.
The Everett Clinic has been running the county’s other drive-thru testing locations, at 4027 Hoyt Ave. in Everett and 2901 174th St. NE in Smokey Point.
Patients must be showing coronavirus symptoms to be swabbed, and it’s by appointment only, with a doctor’s referral. If you’re new to the Everett Clinic, call 425-257-1400 for more information.
In Washington, like many other states, there’s already a shortage of test kits, which Gov. Jay Inslee said continues to be a “huge frustration.”
In recent weeks, Inslee and Sen. Patty Murray have both called on President Donald Trump to use the Defense Production Act to force more manufacturers across the country to make materials for testing, as well as personal protective equipment.
“We need testing to be fast, free and everywhere,” Murray said on a call Wednesday with reporters. “The Trump administration’s early delays and missteps put us way behind here. Because of their continued lack of urgency and leadership, we still have hurdles.”
Losing the Everett Memorial Stadium site doesn’t mean the county is running out of tests, though, Thomas said.
In total, the Everett Clinic has capacity for about 500 tests per day and that number is growing, spokesman Sam Templeton said in an email.
The federally funded testing was never meant to be a long-term solution. It was a “safety valve” to deal with the high number of people seeking tests for the virus, Thomas said.
That surge has steadily declined, she said. In the first days of the drive-thru site, between 180 and 220 tests were administered each day. On Tuesday, about 90 people were swabbed.
“Is it perfect? No,” Thomas said. “But we are heading in the right direction.”
Herald writer Phillip O’Connor contributed to this story.