Spokane Co. requests 31,000 COVID-19 testing swabs in mid-March, only got 1,000 from the state last week

SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane County has seen an increase in testing capacity—places where you can get tested. What isn’t rising is the access to testing kits, which the health district needs.

Testing can be done through healthcare providers such as MultiCare, Providence and CHAS. They get kits from vendors, not the state. However, the health district needs kits for testing sites ran by them, community access and as a back up for providers.

“So with respect to testing, you know we’ve been talking about that from the get-go,” said Dr. Bob Lutz, medical officer for Spokane County, “and it continues to be a challenge but things are getting better.”

Capacity to test people has improved. There are testings sites and respiratory clinics for people with symptoms. Criteria to get tested has also been loosened as the CDC adds more symptoms to the virus.

“We need to be testing. We need to be testing more people,” Lutz said. “We need to be testing more people to identify exactly how many people have COVID-19 in our community.”

However, it’s not that simple. The health district requests testing kits and materials from the state and federal level, rather than on the open market.

“We have been challenged however at the public health level to obtain sufficient materials because we are dependent upon getting those materials from out of state,” Lutz said. “We have yet to see the flood gates open for testing materials, and so until that happens we will continue, the department of health will continue to focus on distributing test kits where the outbreaks occur and right now, they’re definitely occurring in Yakima, Benton, Franklin counties.”

Places like MultiCare don’t currently have that issue.

“In terms of our testing capacity, we have at least 2,000 tests available now,” said Dr. Jessica McHugh, Medical Director of MultiCare Rockwood Clinic. “We have an increase in tests. We have the capacity to run them and they can actually be processed much more quickly.”

In Washington state, nearly 250,000 people have been tested. However, that’s only 3.2% of the population. Closer to home, more than 10,000 people in Spokane County got a COVID-19 test, but that’s only 2% of our population.

There is some good news for Spokane County.

“We are seeing more materials made available,” Lutz said. “We just got a couple thousand last week, and I was on a call this morning saying ‘yes, we are getting more materials in, which is great to hear.”

READ: Spokane health board approves request to ask Gov. Inslee to speed up county’s reopening

READ: Inslee, Washington leaders join Western States to request $1 trillion in congressional aid