County to launch low-barrier, mobile Covid-19 testing August 10

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Whatcom County will launch a low-barrier, mobile Covid-19 testing program August 10, according to a news release from the Whatcom County Health Department. The program is not accepting registrations this week due to an already full queue of people who have contacted the health department for low-barrier testing. The department will provide information on how to register once more details are finalized.

The initial launch is a field test;  fully operational mobile testing is expected to be available throughout the county within two weeks. Testing locations will include at least one site in each of the seven school districts in Whatcom County, the news release says. The mobile testing model will use an online scheduling system that allows users to register for an appointment in advance. 

This new model is an effort by the Whatcom County Health Department and Whatcom Unified Command (WUC) to reduce wait times for low-barrier testing. At the county’s pilot project last month, some people waited up to three hours. Mobile registration will offer shorter and more predictable wait times, possibly only 5-15 minutes, the health department said.

The news release says this model will allow for up to 320 individuals to be tested each day. 

Low-barrier testing means individuals do not need a referral from their healthcare provider before making an appointment. So anyone will be able to get tested for free at the mobile site. 

Other information about the mobile testing model:

  • Testing will be provided Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays throughout Whatcom County. 
  • Users will also be notified when their results are available and can them through an online portal within minutes of the test being processed. It will still take 24-72 hours from the time of testing for tests to be processed by the laboratory.
  • Those without internet access will be able to schedule a testing appointment by phone between 8:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., seven days a week. Trained WUC volunteers will staff a dedicated test scheduling phone line. 

More details about testing locations, hours and the registration process will be provided in the coming weeks, the release says. 

In July, the county’s pilot project at Bellingham’s Civic Field Stadium tested about 1,800 people in four days of drive-through and walk-up testing. The program cost about $126,000 and required more than 50 volunteers a day, which WUC incident commander Scott McCreery said is unsustainable for WUC and the health department.

According to a previous article by The Northern Light, the pilot project cost the county $69 per individual test and $6,612 per positive test.

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