The city of Seattle and University of Washington (UW) teamed up to create two coronavirus testing sites in an effort to provide free testing to determine who has the virus.
The facilities — former Seattle emissions testing sites at 12040 Aurora Ave. N and 3820 Sixth Ave. S — are open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
People can register for a testing slot in advance by going to seattle.gov/mayor/COVID-19-testing.
The partnership will increase the number of tests by 1,600 per day.
“The implementation of stringent mitigation measures have saved lives and slowed the spread of the virus, but the virus can quickly resurge if we don’t do testing, contact tracing and isolation,” said Ana Marie Cauce, UW president, in a press release.
Expanding testing capacity is critical for getting the virus under control because people who test positive can isolate themselves and avoid spreading the disease.
Research out of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine suggests that as few as 10 percent of the cases may be responsible for 80 percent of the threat.
Scientists call these people “super spreaders” because they tend to infect large groups of people all at once. One such super spreader in South Korea — dubbed “Patient 31” by the country’s health authority — infected 40 people in her church.
Closer to home, a super spreader in Mt. Vernon, Washington, infected 52 fellow choir members.
The uptick in testing is coming amid thousands of Seattleites gathering daily for more than a week to protest the killing of George Floyd, a Black man in Minnesota, at the hands of a white police officer.
Public health officials have acknowledged that these protests could cause large-scale “community spread” of the deadly virus, but have not called on the protests to stop.
More testing also means that tests will be available to people who didn’t meet early guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which only recommended tests for people with symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
That often meant people with very mild symptoms, people who were asymptomatic or those who were potentially exposed and pre-symptomatic couldn’t find out if they had the virus, facilitating its spread deeper into communities.
Early efforts to increase testing capacity were stymied by a nationwide dearth of testing supplies. Gov. Jay Inslee said in a press conference Thursday that Washington had received two-thirds of the supplies requested from the federal government.
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Follow Ashley on Twitter @AshleyA_RC.
Read more in the June 10-16, 2020 issue.