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COVID-19 testing demand in King County doubles amid delta variant spread

Officials with COVID-19 testing sites say although demand is increasing, wait times are short and results are still coming back quickly.

RENTON, Wash. — The surge of COVID-19 cases caused by the delta variant has more people looking to get tested. Some testing sites have seen traffic double in recent weeks.

On Thursday, Renton police helped direct traffic at the HealthPoint testing location in Renton. Cars waited in a short line, and HealthPoint said wait times were usually no longer than 20 minutes.

"We have had some lines, which we had not had for a very long time, but they're not wrapping around the streets like they did back in November," said Kathrina Westby-Sharman, HealthPoint's vice president of patient experience and operations.

Although demand for tests has risen, testing sites have improved efficiency and the state has increased its capacity to run tests in the year and a half since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Washington state. 

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"We do have a well-oiled machine that's a really good partnership," said Westby-Sharman. "We're providing good care that's timely." 

HealthPoint, in partnership with King County, has two testing locations in Renton and Kent, which are seeing a huge number of people. Recently, they've been testing upwards of 800 people a day. 

"A week ago, it was closer to the high sixes, and before that, it was running much more consistently 300 to 500," said Westby-Sharman. "So just in a week and a half time period, you see a pretty large increase."

Westby-Sharman said the positivity rate between the sites is 8.6%. The state's positivity goal is to see cases below 5%.

The good news is most sites can still accommodate walk-ups. Wait times are less than 30 minutes, and results are still being delivered in up to 48 hours.

Westby-Sharman believes, for now, there isn't a need to add additional testing locations in King County, but said pop-up locations could be necessary if cases continue to rise.

Seattle ended its testing efforts in early August and is now directing people to two testing hubs in SODO and north Seattle, which UW Medicine runs.

HealthPoint's testing sites will remain open six days a week until the end of 2021. Westby-Sharman said the location also offers drive-up vaccinations.

"The team is like, 'Hey if you're not vaccinated, come back when you're feeling better and let's get you vaccinated,'" said Westby-Sharman. "And we've had a lot of people to just get vaccinated as well."