by Carolyn Bick
A new, free walk-up COVID-19 testing site will open in South King County’s Highline College, Public Health – Seattle & King County announced in a press release on Nov. 19.
The new testing site has parking available for those who come by car, and will officially open on Friday, Nov. 20, and will operate Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. Public Health – Seattle & King County (PHSKC) said it decided to open the testing site there, because South King County continues to be “hard-hit” by the pandemic. As the below screenshots of PHSKC’s COVID-19 tracking dashboard show, South King County has been and continues to be the area of the county that has been hardest hit by the pandemic, in terms of case counts.
The screenshots above display two-week timespans of positivity rates between September and November. This is not the same as the overall positivity rate in a given area.
The dark blue areas of the map show 150 or more cases per 100,000 residents over any given two-week timespan, according to the dashboard’s tracker range. But South King County has far surpassed the upper levels of this range, and has been above this range for months, starting in June, according to the dashboard’s feature that shows the geographical distribution of the disease over time.
Some of the worst-hit areas in South King County are places with large populations of immigrants and refugees, many of whom tend to be People of Colour. For instance, the SeaTac-Tukwila area was one of the first to fall into the dark blue zone, with 200.1 positive cases per 100,000 residents in the measured time span between late June and early July. In that same time frame, North Highline had 205.0 positive cases per 100,000 residents.
As of Nov. 18, the SeaTac-Tukwila area has a two-week measured positive case rate of 671.9 positive cases per 100,000 residents and North Highline — where the new test site is located — has a case rate of 670.0 positive cases per 100,000 residents. These places already face severe health disparities, including access to health care, as reported in the 2018-2019 King County Community Health Needs Assessment.
Though these same areas currently show relatively low death rates, as the Emerald has noted several times before, even if a person does not die from the virus, it is highly likely they will suffer long term — and possibly permanent — detrimental physical changes, due to the way the virus acts in the body.
This is why the state’s top health officers have been raising red flags, particularly over the last two weeks. As the Emerald already reported, the Washington State Department of Health’s (DOH) Health Officer Kathy Lofy said last week that Washingtonians “should probably all stop socializing for the next several weeks.” During the DOH’s weekly public health briefing on the virus yesterday, Swedish First Hill’s Vice President of Medical Affairs Dr. Elizabeth Wako reported that the location saw 10 patients admitted to the hospital in a span of five hours that same day.
PHSKC asks that anyone who tests positive for the virus isolate and quarantine themselves immediately. For those who can’t safely do so, PHSKC offers safe isolation and quarantine sites. To get in touch with quarantine services, PHSKC asks that people call (206) 477-3977.
“This is especially important for those living with a family member who is elderly or medically fragile, or people experiencing homelessness,” the press release reads.
The new, free, walk-up testing site will be located at Highline Community College, 2402 S. 240th St, Des Moines, in the South Parking Lot. Though registration is encouraged, it is not required. Anyone wishing to get tested must bring photo identification that also has their date of birth, but citizenship is not required for a test, and neither is an insurance card, though people may bring them, if they wish. For other testing sites, visit PHSKC’s testing site page.
For help with registration, PHSKC asks that people call the King County COVID-19 Call Center, which is open seven days a week, 8 a.m. – 7 p.m., at (206) 477-3977.
Carolyn Bick is a journalist and photographer based in South Seattle. You may reach them here, and check out their other work here and here.
Featured image is a screenshot of the geographical distribution of positive cases in King County from Public Health – Seattle & King County’s COVID-19 tracking dashboard. The data reflects an overall average positivity rate of 1,616.7 positive cases per 100,000 residents. This data is current as of Nov. 18, 2020.
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