SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane Falls Community College and Spokane Community College will begin COVID-19 testing on Monday Oct.18 for adults and children.
The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) is working with Seattle-based company Discovery Health to look into setting up two COVID-19 testing sites at Spokane community colleges.
The Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD) recommended the sites be set up at Spokane Community College and Spokane Falls Community College, according to Discovery Health's Chief Growth Officer Daniel Pulse. The DOH, SRHD and Discovery Health were in Spokane Monday to review the sites for setting up testing infrastructure.
They schedule and exact location on the campuses will be available for the public next week.
"The state reached out, we've been working with the state to address outbreaks and launch high volume community testing sites in various areas around the state," Pulse said. "The state has identified, through their research, areas where there is a lack of testing availability, where maybe the local healthcare jurisdiction doesn't have the resources to prop up a site and handle the amount of volume that is needed for testing."
They are projecting the sites will be up and running in about three weeks to a month, he added. They will be providing PCR anterior nasal swabs, so it will take 24-48 hours to get results. The tests will be done in the nasal cavity, not all the way up the nose. At first, the testing will just be drive-thru only, he said.
The testing will be free for the community with insurance and funded by the DOH. If those interested, make sure to bring both ID and insurance card. If someone doesn't have any form of identification, the DOH is prepared to pay for the test. However, Pulse added that this site is to stop the spread specifically, not for travel or purposes other than feeling sick or being around someone who has or had covid.
These sites are meant for [if] you need a COVID test because you are symptomatic or you think you might have had exposure to somebody," he said. "Obviously we're not turning people away, but given the limited resources, we hope that people will utilize this when they need it, so that we can take space for those that really do need to know whether or not they're a danger to those around."
They also said they are looking to hire new employees for the sites and bring employees over from Seattle.
"We need to find local resources to continue to make it sustainable," he said, about hiring in Spokane.
- Site manager who has experience running an operation like this. It doesn't need to be COVID testing. They would prefer the person knows how to run any kind of drive-thru testing site.
- Four to five admins to check people in, help them register and get them their labels and files.
- At least two sample collection staff. They prefer that those be medical, but students in nursing school could also work.
"We're looking at different ways to quickly staff this up to get it running, the infrastructure pieces don't take that long," he said. "If I were to identify good staff that we think would be great to manage one of the sites, we would even fly them out here and have them shadow at one of our local sites to get that experience with our operations and how we run things so that they can be on the ground day one at the new site, operating things. We have a couple of sites set up here in Seattle area, we put them up and have them here for a week or so shadowing on some of our experienced staff over here, we'd love to get that word out and then get people in place quickly."
He added that the process should be simple and easy, they generally don't see more than a 15-minute wait at their other locations in the rural Seattle area. Although scheduling will be available, they will accept people who drive up, given the availability, he said.
Local health leaders have said there isn't a shortage in testing supplies in the Spokane area, but staffing shortages are playing a role in long wait times for tests.
The DOH is concerned with the number of workers they have to administer tests and work in hospitals at COVID-19 hospitalizations also continue to surge.
"When we get to this level all of our systems get stretched," said Lacy Fehrenbach, Deputy secretary of COVID-19 response. "We're all facing staff shortages and the people that administer tests are similar people and types of health care professionals that administer vaccines and they're the same folks that work in our hospitals and clinics across the state."
Right now, Washington state is seeing the highest rates of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations since the start of the pandemic.
In Spokane, there were 220 new cases reported on Monday and the total number of cases are 63,377, according to SRHD.
SRHD also reported that 221 COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized in Spokane and the amount of COVID-19 deaths have reached 814.