SEATTLE — The new year’s kicked off with a race for more COVID-19 testing capacity as the number of daily cases skyrockets and testing lines grow amid the latest pandemic surge.
King County announced Wednesday that it bought another 400,000 at-home testing kits, bringing its total to 700,000 total kits after an initial purchase last week.
The first 100,000 tests are set to arrive in the county next week and are set to be distributed by Public Health — Seattle & King County (PHSKC). The county plans to prioritize testing kits in areas that are most in need.
Executive Dow Constantine said in a statement, “We’ll be working with partners to get these kits into the community as soon as they arrive, but demand will clearly outpace the supply. As state and federal resources are distributed, we’re doing everything we can to increase testing capacity as quickly as possible.”
The county said PHSKC is putting together plans to get tests to community-based organizations, health centers, senior centers, libraries and other locations where residents can congregate.
The county, along with the rest of the state, is seeing record daily cases, with a 7-day average of 2,477 cases as of Jan. 1. Hospitalizations have also been on a steep rise with a 7-day average of more than 26 daily COVID-19 admissions as of Dec. 31.
In an interview with KING 5, Constantine called the recent spike "the largest surge in COVID infections in the two-year course of this pandemic."
“With this surge in cases, we must do all we can to expand access to testing across the region. These additional 400,000 kits will help ensure residents have the tools they need to protect themselves, their families, and the community,” Constantine said.
Constantine said the county plans to apply for federal reimbursement for the funds it's using to purchase the testing kits.
The county plans to continue purchasing kits to increase testing capacity in addition to supplies from the federal government.
"It is going to be a few weeks before we reach the peak of this omicron surge and see it decline," Constantine said, urging residents to continue wearing masks and taking all the precautions laid out by PHSKC. "I just encourage people to be cautious, to use common sense to recognize that even if you're fully vaccinated and boosted, there may be those around you who are not able to have that same level of immunity of protection."
Those looking for a test can find locations and any updates on the King County website.