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Long lines at Seattle COVID-19 testing sites before Thanksgiving as cases surge

Some people are waiting more than an hour for a coronavirus test. The City of Seattle said it may have to turn some patients away.

SEATTLE — Lines at COVID-19 testing sites are growing as cases surge and people try to squeeze in a test before Thanksgiving.

Health officials are urging people to save those tests for people who may be sick or who came into contact with someone who tested positive.

Wait times at City of Seattle testing sites could be as long as 90 minutes this week, according to Sarah Smith, Seattle testing site coordinator.

“We are seeing a huge increase in patients coming in,” she said.

The city hit a record number of tests this week and is adding staff to keep up, as well as reducing the number of available reservation slots at its four sites, Smith said.

“If the site feels like they are overwhelmed or going to be overwhelmed, they will turn people away,” she said.

Pierce County Emergency Management is also seeing a rush at its mobile sites, but wait times aren’t as long, according to Mike Halliday, a county spokesman.

“They were getting through that line in 20 to 30 minutes because our teams work really, really hard to get people through quickly,” he said.

Starting Friday and lasting for about a week, patients should expect a wait time of five to seven days for results, Halliday said.

The county’s goal is to notify COVID-positive patients in 24-48 hours and COVID-negative patients in 3-5 business days, he said.

Halliday said the county would not turn anyone away, as long as they are in line before the testing site closes.

Some King County testing sites experienced up to an hour wait time on Wednesday. Results are usually available in 48 hours, the county said.

Health officials said anyone who thinks a negative test will give them the green light to have a carefree Thanksgiving gathering should think again.

“Even if you come and you test negative, you could still be positive the next day, which is why we don't want you to gather, because you're going to get grandma or your family or friends sick,” Smith said.