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Washington state & Spokane area health leaders at odds over opening another drive-thru COVID testing site

If someone in the Spokane area needs a COVID test because they have symptoms or were exposed, they should call their doctor, according to SRHD.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Getting a COVID test in Spokane at the moment is not easy. The issue spreads across the Inland Northwest. 

According to the Spokane Regional Health District, they are working with the Washington COVID-19 Response team to set up a drive-thru community testing site. SRHD wants one to open immediately. 

However, Washington State Department of Health(DOH) said they are not planning on opening up more free mass testing sites like the one at the Spokane Arena. The arena testing site closed earlier this summer. 

The department is concerned with the number of workers they have to administer tests and work in hospitals at COVID-19 hospitalizations also continue to surge. 

"When we get to this level all of our systems get stretched," said Lacy Fehrenbach, Deputy secretary of COVID-19 response. "We're all facing staff shortages and the people that administer tests are similar people and types of health care professionals that administer vaccines and they're the same folks that work in our hospitals and clinics across the state."

Right now, Washington state is seeing the highest rates of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations since the start of the pandemic. Spokane has 18 patients on ventilators in the ICU.

Across the state, 1,592 patients are hospitalized with COVID in Washington. 

According to the DOH, the federal government could step in to help across the country. The department also has some community-based testing sites across the state. They want more to open soon. There are also some at-home options. 

"There are a number of tests available to be done at home," Fehrenbach said. "You can pick those up at your local pharmacy, you can also order some online from online vendors. Those are rapid antigen tests that you self administer at home and that's a great resource for families to have on hand."

However, the whole system on the local, state and federal is strained at the moment. 

Leaders across the board say the best to help is to get COVID cases down. They say the public should get vaccinated, wear masks and continue social distancing. 

If someone needs a test because they have symptoms or were exposed to COVID-19, they should call their doctor, according to SRHD.

The health district also suggested if someone needs a negative test to travel or attend an event they should try a local pharmacy or at-home tests.

Many local clinics are also able to administer antigen tests.

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