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Half of University Place clinic staff out sick, creating COVID testing challenge

As COVID-19 testing continues, medical workers struggle under the strain of doing more with fewer people.

UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. — Dr. Ariel Carmichael has seen how devastating COVID-19 can be to the workplace firsthand, especially as a medical worker.

“Half of my clinic is out sick with COVID right now, because all the people keep coming into my clinic saying, ‘Hey I think I have COVID,’ spreading it to my staff,” she said.

Despite telling people the University Place Medical Clinic isn’t set up for mass testing, Carmichael says people still come in looking to get tested.

Now her clinic has partnered with the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department and OURChurch in University Place to run a mass testing site.

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Carmichael says the move is out of necessity.

“We’re doing the testing site to get people out of my clinic, to stop coming into my building, stop spreading it to my staff," Carmichael said. "Now we’re trying to do this with half the staff we normally would.”

But how do you keep the workers safe in these conditions?

Carmichael said her staff was tested Friday morning and get tested weekly but said that’ll have to be stepped up if they continue to work at the site.

“You’ve been exposed," Carmichael said. "You know you’ve been exposed doing this. Yeah, you’re wearing a mask, but you’ve been exposed.”

Carmichael also knows that the more time that’s spent here, the less time she has for the clinic and her other patients. 

“If I keep getting overrun with phone calls on COVID stuff, I don’t have time to care for the patients who I’ve established a relationship with,” Carmichael said.

And as the line gets longer, Carmichael hopes more people will come forward.

“We just need help," she said. "Volunteer!”