As Thanksgiving draws nearer, COVID-19 infections are surging and virus testing is hitting capacity, leaving well being specialists and elected officers imploring the general public to stay home, stay secure and save the testing for people who’re symptomatic or had contact with somebody who has the virus.
“We’re asking people to forego their holiday plans, to stay away from their friends and family and, right now, to reserve the test for people who have symptoms,” or who have been in close contact with people who do, said Dr. Charissa Fotinos, Washington state’s COVID testing lead at a briefing this week. She discouraged those that don’t meet these standards from getting examined if the only function is a “safety check” to accommodate journey and social gatherings.
Infection numbers are hitting new highs, with King County reporting a every day common of 581 new instances, a rate 200% higher than the previous peak. The instances are overwhelming contact tracing and containment efforts. Hospitalization charges are up 50% every week over last two weeks, and hospital techniques are activating emergency responses to meet the demand, officers said Friday.
Gov. Jay Inslee has for weeks cautioned towards gathering for Thanksgiving, and not too long ago issued a ban on indoor gatherings with people outside your family most often.
But the restricted federal management has lead to some complicated messaging, together with an e mail sent Tuesday to Seattle residents from a nationwide firm that’s coordinating town’s drive-thru testing. The e mail from Solv learn: “Gathering for Thanksgiving? Get a COVID test as soon as possible for extra peace of mind and your family’s safety.”
The firm halted the communication to Solv subscribers before it reached its whole database, following the corporate’s realization that the message didn’t match pointers that adjust amongst cities and states nationwide.
“We did not intend to send anything that is counter to public health guidance,” said CEO Heather Fernandez.
It was solely on Thursday that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning towards journey and vacation celebrations outside of a person’s family. Inslee’s ban on gatherings makes an exception for people who quarantine for 14 days or if somebody quarantines for seven days after which receives a destructive COVID-19 take a look at inside 48 hours of gathering, which appears to leave the door cracked for ‘safety check’ testing.
While testing locations battle to keep up with the Thanksgiving spike in demand, there are efforts underway to broaden the supply of testing before and across the December holidays.
On Friday, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan introduced a partnership with non-public testing supplier Curative to open two, free cell testing kiosks by early December within the Northgate or Lake City neighborhoods and the Central District or Capitol Hill neighborhoods. The plan is to add not less than 5 additional kiosks, which might conduct 500 exams every day, by mid December. The kiosks will probably be positioned on metropolis property in excessive density, underserved areas.
“We want to make testing as easy as possible for the residents of Seattle,” Durkan said.
The path not to test-then-gather (from King County’s top public well being official) is attention-grabbing. So many Americans I do know have been doing this, but in my Canadian circles it’s unheard of. https://t.co/g4Pd3gdZYZ
— Mara Hansen Staples (@marakatherine1) November 20, 2020
The metropolis at the moment runs 4 drive-thru testing websites, that are operating at capacity and experiencing wait instances of up to two hours, even for these with an appointment, officers said. People with signs or who’ve had contact with somebody who has examined positive are given precedence in scheduling.
In the summer time, Seattle was conducting an common of 2,500-3,000 exams per day at its free community websites, but that’s doubled to 5,500-6,000 per day. Tests outcomes are usually obtainable from the lab inside 48-72 hours, but people are advised to verify for outcomes the day after testing, officers said.
When the Curative kiosks are added to the drive-thru websites, town ought to have a capacity for 9,000 exams every day. People will make take a look at appointments online, and on the kiosk, people will take their own pattern by coughing 3 times, swabbing their mouths and placing the swab into a capped vial that will probably be sent to a lab for testing. Results must be obtainable 24-48 hours later by e mail or textual content message.
Also on Friday, the county opened its fifth drive-thru location at Highline College within the county’s south end the place an infection charges are on the highest ranges within the space — 3 times higher than Seattle. King County, which also encompasses tech hubs in Bellevue and Redmond, will add one other site in early December, said Dr. Mark Del Beccaro, COVID testing technique lead at Public Health – Seattle & King County.
The county has been holding up with demand, including capacity with additional staff and more drive-thru lanes the place potential, Del Beccaro said Thursday.
With eight and soon 9 locations, Seattle and King County are “doing really well compared to any peer group in terms of availability of these open access testing sites,” he said. “We are doing really well. I’m not sure there’s anybody doing better than that… there are a lot of places that don’t have the organizational ability or resources to do anywhere near that level.”
If COVID instances keep rising quickly, and with the potential for flu instances to cause COVID-like signs, there are worries that testing may turn out to be additional strained and for shortages in testing reagents and provides. There’s also concern about funding for testing.
Under most circumstances, medical insurance corporations are required to cowl the cost of the COVID lab exams with none co-pay. But the largest expense is working the community testing websites, and people prices are lined by the federal CARES Act. That funding is operating out.
“Our huge concern right now, with the lack of bipartisan coordination in the other Washington, is the current round of CARES Act funding for these activities expires on December 30th,” he said. The county is drafting a technique to quickly cowl the prices if new laws isn’t handed in time.
Private healthcare suppliers, hospitals, and long-term care services and others are also conducting COVID exams, accounting for about one-quarter of the county’s exams.
Challenge Seattle, an group of CEOs from many of the state’s largest corporations, sent a letter this week to Inslee and state lawmakers calling for more aggressive motion on COVID, together with elevated testing, and providing its support.
Some well being specialists are hesitant to advise towards testing for people with out signs or a known publicity in case it discourages people who undoubtedly must be checked, and because the illness has turn out to be so widespread that unknown publicity is more and more potential.
“We need to trust the patient and really educate and say testing is one important modality,” said Dr. Caesar Djavaherian, co-founder and medical director of Carbon Health, a telehealth firm with pop-up testing clinics across the nation. Djavaherian shared anecdotal proof of positive instances the place there was no known contact with an contaminated person.
“We’ve been humbled by the virus left and right,” he said. In Seattle, Carbon Health is at the moment solely screening Alaska Airlines vacationers who require testing to fly to Hawaii.
Experts advise that even when somebody will get a destructive take a look at, it’s solely a snapshot of their COVID standing on the moment of testing. They may nonetheless be contaminated and contagious.
So when will people have much less restricted entry to COVID exams, as we watch for widespread vaccinations?
That probably won’t come till speedy testing kits turn out to be extensively obtainable for home use.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued its first emergency use authorization for a speedy, home self-test package. The package from California-based Lucira Health requires a prescription and is predicted to cost $50 or much less, in accordance to the New York Times.
Other home exams kits can be found, but samples should be sent to a lab for evaluation. Carbon Health presents a $185 home take a look at package. Residents of the greater Seattle space can take part in free at-home testing being performed by means of the Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network.
It’s a start.
“In an ideal world,” said Fotinos, “if we have testing readily available at every corner, we would want everyone to get tested.”