Medical workers test for the COVID-19 virus at a drive-thru testing site in the parking lot near Everett Memorial Stadium at 3900 Broadway on Monday in Everett. Only patients with referrals from a doctor are tested, after setting up an appointment. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Medical workers test for the COVID-19 virus at a drive-thru testing site in the parking lot near Everett Memorial Stadium at 3900 Broadway on Monday in Everett. Only patients with referrals from a doctor are tested, after setting up an appointment. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Drive-thru coronavirus testing site could soon close

The federal government is “moving on” from the Everett location after next week, officials say.

EVERETT — The future of a drive-thru coronavirus testing site in Everett is uncertain.

The site, in a parking lot near Everett Memorial Stadium, has been used to serve roughly 200 clients a day since it opened on March 23. But by late next week, the federal support that the Snohomish Health District relies on to run the pop-up center is expected to cease, said the district’s health officer, Dr. Chris Spitters, at a Friday news briefing.

“The federal government is moving on from this site a week from today. The future fate of that testing site depends on what, if anything, can be arranged to sustain it,” Spitters said. “… So, to-be-announced on that front.”

About 1,500 tests have been performed since the site was established, Spitters said. Of the tests that have been completed, about 4% came back positive for the virus, he said.

In addition to being symptomatic, people tested there must also be considered high risk — pregnant, 60 or older, or have underlying health conditions — or work with the public, according to the health district.

Local health officials initially anticipated the center would be open for about three weeks.

On Friday, the state Department of Health reported 6,966 cumulative cases statewide and 284 deaths.

In Snohomish County, there have been 1,450 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 76 “probable” cases and 42 deaths, the health district reported.

The district also announced that it would no longer release the age and sex of each deceased individual, as it had since the outbreak’s start. Instead, it will publish aggregated demographic data, such as the age of death by decade.

Social distancing and other restrictions so far appear to be effective in stemming the spread of the virus, Spitters said.

Experts estimate that person-to-person contact has been reduced by 80%, Gov. Jay Inslee said on Thursday, while announcing that his statewide stay-at-home order would continue through May 4.

The health district has limited data to show the impact of social distancing, said district spokeswoman Kari Bray.

“The cases we are reporting now are people who would have likely been exposed to the virus 1-2 weeks ago, so it takes time to really see any difference in case counts after the measures were put in place,” Bray said in an email.

Inslee first ordered residents to stay home on March 23.

Government agencies are still planning for the surge in hospitalizations that local officials say hasn’t yet come.

State and federal authorities have assessed the Port of Everett and Evergreen State Fairgrounds in Monroe as places that could potentially become makeshift care sites to free up more hospital beds for COVID-19 patients. Last week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — along with representatives from the Washington State Department of Health and state Emergency Management Division — visited the two locations, according to county Emergency Management Director Jason Biermann.

The Army Corps of Engineers is working with the state to evaluate locations for “alternate care facilities,” meant to help serve patients who do not have COVID-19 to ensure hospitals have the capacity they need to handle serious coronavirus infections, said Karina Shagren, a spokeswoman for the Washington Military Department .

One such facility — a 250-bed field hospital — is being established in Seattle’s CenturyLink Field Event Center. Another alternate care facility is being set up in a former hospital in Yakima, Shagren said.

Locations of any future alternate care facilities would likely be determined based on need and available equipment and personnel, she said. Those decisions would be made by the State Emergency Operations Center with input from the Department of Health.

A local isolation and quarantine site that opened in downtown Everett’s Angel Of The Winds Arena on Wednesday has admitted just one person, Spitters said Friday. The arena has been furnished with cots and partitions to provide a temporary place to stay for up to 150 people who need to cut themselves off from others but have nowhere else to go.

The county’s Department of Human Services is still working to move homeless people who are not COVID-19 positive into motels to reduce crowding in shelters and meet social distancing requirements, said the department’s director, Mary Jane Brell Vujovic.

“To date, we’ve gotten over 220 individuals off the street in either hotel/motels or congregate sheltering sites with social distancing in order to make sure that people can be safe — as safe as possible,” Brell Vujovic said during the media briefing. “We know that there are still people out there. We’re still working to try to help people get off the streets into sheltered situations.”

Rachel Riley: 425-339-3465; rriley@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @rachel_m_riley.

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