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Health leaders urge COVID-19 testing as vaccination rate stagnates

As Washington’s vaccination rate hovers near 70%, local health leaders say testing will help lessen infection.

SEATTLE — Health leaders are stressing the importance of wearing masks and getting vaccinated as COVID-19 continues to be a serious threat across the nation. However, testing is one tool that seems to be not as popular.

"The demand certainly dropped off about a month ago,” said Dr. Mark Del Beccaro, deputy assistant chief with Public Health - Seattle & King County. “We've scaled back and the City of Seattle scaled back testing. We didn't scale back by closing sites"

When the pandemic was at its peak, there was an overwhelming response for testing. 

"Some sites used to run like four or five lanes at a time,” Del Beccaro said. “Now we're running one or two lanes, so the wait times to get into testing are not significant." 

Shorter wait times for testing means the same for results. 

"The turnaround time from the time that your sample is taken to the time you get it is uniformly less than a day for most people,” Del Beccaro said.

More than 70% of those eligible in Washington have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Because the vaccinations do not have 100% efficacy, Dr. Del Baccaro said there's still a small chance those who are vaccinated can get COVID.

"It's a very small percentage, but it still means you could potentially pass it to other folks." 

So when should you get tested? Dr. Del Beccaro said, "If you have any symptoms or exposures, we really strongly urge you to get tested because we need you to be able to isolate and we need to be able to help you get through it." 

Dr. Del Beccaro said Public Health - Seattle & King County is connecting people who test positive and are financially disadvantaged with resources that will help them while they isolate.