Spokane Regional Health asks the state for COVID-19 testing help

SPOKANE, Wash. – The coronavirus continues to grip our community and that’s pushing the need for more people to get tested.

The people who feel sick are not the only ones who need testing, either. People need them for travel, work or concerts. All of that is further straining the system.

Many places are sold out and urgent cares have long waits for people to get a swab. Anywhere people go, it’s difficult to find a test.

John Winfrey said he needed a test to go to a concert at the Pavilion.

AEG, the company that is running the concert series at the Pavilion, requires concert-goers to show proof of full vaccination or have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of the test.

Winfrey says he checked several places including Rite-Aid and Walgreens and came up short.

“We eventually just kind of gave up because we heard there was a doctor’s office in Idaho. We even tried to go to a doctor’s office in Idaho and they didn’t have any,” Winfrey said. 

COVID-19 tests are not readily available like they were before. There are a few reasons why:.There’s too much demand right now. Spokane County is seeing about the same amount of people testing positive for COVID-19 as the last big surge.

However, the difference this time, there are fewer people available to help. Because of this, the Spokane Regional Health District is asking the Washington State Department of Health to lend a hand.

Interim Health Officer Dr. Frank Velazquez says they’ve requested a few things.

One is to have more testing resources and staff for deployable kiosks. Velazquez says these are smaller testing sites that could be set up quicker. He said there are two potential locations from community partners that have offered but could not disclose where.

The second request is getting enough resources for mass testing sites. Though, Velazquez says a mass testing site would take a lot more work since it’s a bigger place to set up and cannot be moved like the deployable kiosks.

Velazquez says they’re also looking for other alternative providers or vendors to help with testing “that could be deployed for community-based activities.”

The health district says it cannot set up any testing sites on its own, no longer having the capacity to do it like before.

“No one in the community really has the excess staff or capacity to set one of these things up. That is where the request to the Department of Health is appropriate,” Velazquez said. “When we have exceeded our ability and have all options to provide that service to the level that’s being required and requested at this point in time.”

To help relieve the strain we’re seeing on testing and hospitals, health leaders are asking people to mask up, get vaccinated and be responsible.

“I get it. If you’re not a health care professional, if you don’t see this day in and day out, you walk into the fairgrounds and it looks like life is normal. So, you think the pandemic’s not real because you’re not dealing with that patient who’s on death’s door.  They can’t see his family to say goodbye before they’re intubated,” said Dr. Dan Getz, the chief medical officer for Providence.

As for Winfrey, who eventually couldn’t end up getting a COVID-19 test for the concert, he was still able to go in for the concert. Winfrey told 4 News Now he and his brother went to the Pavilion early to explain the situation and he said people working the event allowed them in, saying it didn’t happen often.

4 News Now has reached out to AEG regarding what happened to get more clarification on the COVID policy and how that happened.

With the inability to find testing, Winfrey believes there need to be better plans in place if businesses are going to ask for negative COVID-19 tests to go in when there are no resources available.

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