• Community testing gets big boost from several teams ready to help

    September 03, 2020
    OLYMPIA – The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) is working to increase the availability and accessibility of testing across the state of Washington, and is doing so with the help of several organizations, volunteers and health practitioners.

    Medical Teams International (MTI), a Seattle-based non-profit, supplies medical volunteers in emergency situations. Now, two mobile teams from MTI are supporting community testing efforts in Benton, Franklin and Yakima counties as part of our immediate, short-term solution to testing in areas of high-need. MTI provides mobile clinics, which are no-barrier testing sites that can be rapidly deployed to areas such as businesses or neighborhoods experiencing an outbreak. They started with just two mobile teams, and at last count they were averaging 600 tests per day.

    “We are so grateful for the work being done by Medical Teams International, especially in parts of the state that need the most help,” said Dr. Charissa Fotinos, deputy director of the Washington State Health Care Authority and the state’s leader on COVID-19 testing. “MTI has been and will continue to be helpful in providing an initial surge in testing while longer-term, sustainable community resources can be identified for ongoing testing.”

    Another vital testing resource is Health Commons, a member-owned non-profit active across Washington state that helps coordinate care within the health system to make it easier for people to use. Earlier this year Seattle Fire, a founding member of Health Commons, partnered with City of Seattle, King County Public Health and UW Medicine to build high-capacity test sites in King County with the capacity to conduct about 5,000 tests per day in western Washington. DOH is supporting Health Commons and its members as they replicate the success in King County elsewhere in Washington, starting with Benton-Franklin Health District and Yakima Health District. These efforts to train local service providers to operate high-volume testing sites will keep the skills and jobs local and thus build sustainable testing capacity in the communities that need it the most,. 

     “We hope this approach to testing will be the foundation for a more comprehensive response going forward. This training for first responders now can lead to even more success later,” Dr. Fotinos said.

    While testing has met with challenges in parts of the state, it is leading to creative solutions like partnerships with organizations that can help increase statewide access to testing. As we move into the fall, it’s a core statewide goal to increase testing availability, and to increase the number of people requesting tests.
    There are several ways to get a test in Washington state. Depending on where you live, you may have nearby community-based testing sites, local clinics, and drive-thru sites offering accessible testing.

    You can make an appointment through your medical provider. If you need help finding a testing site near you, check with your local health department or district. You may also call the Washington state COVID-19 call center for more resources.

    DOH has established a call center to address questions from the public. If you have questions about what is happening in Washington state regarding COVID-19, please call 1-800-525-0127 and press #.

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