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Expect long lines at COVID-19 testing sites in Washington ahead of the holidays

There are long lines at COVID-19 testing sites all over Washington state as doctors are urging safe practices ahead of the holidays to help stop the surge in cases.

SEATTLE — Around this time of year, we're used to seeing long lines at grocery stores, but in 2020 those lines are instead being seen at COVID-19 testing sites.

There are long lines for COVID-19 testing all over Washington, with wait times as long as several hours at some locations. Some sites have even started turning people away as they struggle to keep up with the demand. 

“We are in the middle of a huge surge of COVID-19 and people should take it very seriously," said Dr. Paul Pottinger, an infectious disease expert with the University of Washington.

The increase in testing has caused wait times at some testing sites to jump up to five hours. With the infection rates and testing numbers up, Pottinger said they’re only expected to increase this holiday season.

“Remember, we’re not even in Thanksgiving yet and we’re already seeing these numbers,” he said.

Seattle mom, Kim Alessi, luckily only had to spend about 30-minutes in line Thursday afternoon as she took her children to get tested.

“I’m glad that people are respecting how serious this is and wanting to take precautions," said Alessi.

As bad as someone might want to head over to a family gathering this Thanksgiving, even with getting tested beforehand, Pottinger warned against it. He said by doing so, you’re putting lives at risk because the test results may not be an accurate reflection of your status.

“If people have gatherings at home with family members, with friends, there’s a very high chance that people would catch or transmit this infection," said Pottinger.

“I want you to think about testing for COVID-19 like you would think about pregnancy testing for birth control. Could be part of the plan, but by itself, it’s not going to do it. It’s the same thing with COVID-19,” he said.

If you're feeling symptoms of COVID-19 or worried you've been exposed, experts recommend getting tested. But be prepared for a potentially long wait at testing sites and try to minimize your exposure to others.

For more information on testing and COVID-19, visit the Washington State Department of Health's website