New COVID-19 Testing Site Opens In Rainier Beach

by Elizabeth Turnbull

On Friday, the City of Seattle opened a COVID-19 testing site in the parking lot of Rainier Beach High School, in an attempt to make testing more available to Seattleites in zip codes where the City has found residents to be at higher risk for the virus.

The new location will provide testing at least until the end of the year and is set up to specifically provide testing for individuals who have been exposed to someone with the virus or are exhibiting any COVID-19 related symptoms. The site is open every day (except Tuesday and Sunday) from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm. While people who are looking to get tested are encouraged to register online, the site also provides immediate testing for those who are struggling to find an open appointment.

“We want people to know that they should get tested the day of their symptoms starting,” said Dr. Michael Sayre, medical director for the Seattle Fire Department. “They should not wait three or four days to figure out if they get better because we want to help them be in quarantine and isolation.’’

With the addition of the testing site in Rainier Beach, which is one of three sites run by the city,  Seattle has expanded to running as many as 3,000 tests a day with a goal of reaching 5,000 tests per day until the virus is sufficiently contained, according to the Seattle Fire Department [SFD].

Once a vaccination has been approved, the hope is to turn the three testing locations in Rainier Beach, SODO, and Aurora into vaccination sites, according to the SFD’s Lieutenant Brian Wallace.

The City chose the Rainier Beach location after noting an increase in positive tests for the virus in the Burien area and Southeast Seattle and after observing a greater number of individuals in the area who did not have reliable access to healthcare, according to Wallace.

While only 2.5 percent of COVID-19 tests came back positive in the predominantly white neighborhood of Shoreline in the past two weeks, this percentage increases the farther south residents live in Seattle and King County. Over eight percent of coronavirus tests came back positive in Seatac and Tukwila in the past two weeks. In Auburn, 92 of the 703 people tested for the coronavirus tested positive (a rate of 13.1%), according to Seattle Times statistics.

“We wanted to be in this neighborhood,” Wallace said. “We wanted to be adjacent to some of the neighborhoods that have been facing the most devastating consequences of this disease.”

Unlike the drive-through location in Aurora and SODO, individuals who come to get tested at the Rainier Beach location, are able to park at the testing site and then walk through a series of lines where they can register and ultimately get tested. Participants will be able to access their test results 72 hours after taking the test, although results may appear as soon as 24 hours after the test, according to Wallace.

Wallace relayed that the city is also actively pursuing the prospects of opening a fourth site in Southwest Seattle, as the virus remains a perpetual source of caution. King County continues to maintain the highest number of cases and deaths in Washington and on Aug. 6, Gov. Inslee recommended that schools default to online-only instruction due to the pandemic posing a continued threat to public safety.

Nationally, the U.S. has reported just shy of 5 million COVID-19 cases and 157,000 deaths since February, according to statistics provided by the Washington Post.

Elizabeth Turnbull is a Seattle-based journalist 

Featured image by JoLynne Martinez