A new, free COVID-19 testing site will open in Federal Way next week.
This site, along with a testing site that opened in Tukwila on Oct. 6, is a response to data showing the area of Federal Way and surrounding cities have the highest number of COVID-19 cases among King County, but yet has seen the least amount of testing conducted.
Free drive-through and walk-up testing will be available from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday at the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way beginning Tuesday, Oct. 13.
Dr. Mark Del Beccaro, of Seattle – King County Public Health, joined the organization in June to work with both the health department and community partners to actualize testing in underserved areas.
Recent accumulated data shows obvious disproportionate impacts of the virus in the South King County cities of Auburn, Kent and Federal Way, he said.
“The area that Federal Way is in, compared to the area of the entire county including Seattle, has the highest rates of cases,” Beccaro said.
There are several ways to measure the virus’s rampage in South King County cities.
As of Oct. 5, the part of the county where Federal Way is located has greater than 1,890 cases per 100,000 residents, according to the county’s data dashboard, and there have been 163 hospitalizations.
For all testing done, the amount of tests that return positive in the Federal Way area is more than 10%, as opposed to other county areas, which maintain an average of 2-3% positive tests overall, he said.
But, the overall amount of tests distributed in Federal Way hovers around less than 17,000 tests per 100,000 residents total, and less than 1,200 tests administered in the past two weeks.
Several factors, such as ethnicity, economic status and types of housing also affect virus rates.
The whole point of testing is to identify people who have the virus early to counsel them, connect them with resources, and notify them to quarantine so they don’t unwillingly go around exposing people, Beccaro said.
Federal Way’s testing site is a large capacity center, which can administer between 250 to 500 COVID-19 tests per day and is open six days a week. Based on the site’s staffing and physical layout, “the Federal Way site could easily see over 500 [tests] a day if needed,” Beccaro said.
Walk-in clinics, the options previously available, could only conduct a handful of tests a day, he said.
Pre-registration is encouraged, but not required, and testing is available regardless of citizenship or insurance status.
“We will test anybody anyway,” he said. “It’s more important we identify people [with the virus] and stop the spread.”
Those with symptoms or who have been exposed to a person infected with COVID-19 are urged to get tested as soon as possible. Results are made available in 12-48 hours, with about 90% of results returning in roughly a day, Beccaro said.
At all county testing sites, multilingual staff are available to translate and also have the ability to do phone interpreting. With enough advanced notice, American Sign Language can also be provided. Federal Way’s location also provides ample accommodation for mobility access vans or those needing mobility assistance.
“We don’t send anybody away,” Beccaro said. “We’d rather err on the side of testing than err on the side of discouraging.”
Testing is not a substitute for practicing safe mask wearing, social distancing and using best hygiene practices, he said.
With the change of weather and winter looming, the county health department is anticipating an increase of people having symptoms compatible with COVID-19, which could expand testing demands as well.
County testing sites are designed to be in operation for 3-6 months and easily go through the spring, Beccaro said. However, the sites depend on federal funding from the CARES Act.
“We are appreciative and proud of this partnership and collaboration with King County Public Health to produce more testing options for Federal Way residents,” said Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell. “Giving our residents a convenient and safe option to get tested is a key element in helping them make smart decisions about how to keep themselves and their loved ones safe throughout this pandemic.”
Federal Way COVID-19 testing site fast facts:
– Free and open to anyone, regardless of insurance, citizenship status or other factors.
– Testing site is operated by King County Public Health officials, St. Francis Hospital staff, and South King Fire & Rescue EMTs/firefighters.
– Open 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday at 650 SW Campus Drive in Federal Way.
– Pre-registration encouraged, not required. Visit chifranciscan.org/freetesting.