SEATTLE — With Governor Jay Inslee calling for a massive ramp-up in novel coronavirus (COVID-19) testing before lifting most social distancing guidelines, new methods are emerging to help give Washington state a testing boost.
A partnership between Anesis Spine and Pain Care and Atlas Genomics is now offering what appears to be the first drive-through style test for the general public, regardless of whether a person is showing symptoms of the virus.
The test costs $99 out of pocket. Results are available within 24-48 hours.
"We were just looking at what could we do to be a part of the solution," said Paul Song, CEO of Anesis Spine and Pain Care.
Song’s company, along with Atlas Genomics, was already handling lab tests for other diseases before the coronavirus pandemic. Pivoting the business was relatively easy, Song says, there is clearly a need.
"The government has said repeatedly that anyone that wants to be tested should be tested, but the fact on the ground is that that's not happening," he explained.
Patients can sign up through a website and schedule an appointment at one of four testing locations in western Washington. Patients conduct a nasal swab test on themselves without getting out of their car. Song said they have the capacity to test 500 people per day.
The testing is fully certified and approved by the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Health.
Inslee said he hopes to see 20,000 to 30,000 tests per day. To reach that goal, current testing would need to be ramped up five-fold.
The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) said additional testing is needed, especially on high-risk individuals. But added there is little value in testing asymptomatic people at this time.
People can be infectious for five days before symptoms start, and a test at that time can be falsely negative. Also, people who have had the infection and cleared it can shed virus for several weeks after their symptoms have resolved and they are not infectious at this time so there can be false positives.
Testing in Washington is currently not limited to people with symptoms, but the DOH said health care providers are focusing on people with COVID-19 symptoms. The list frequently asked questions about testing can be found here.