Using machines from the medical device company Abbott Laboratories, the Snohomish Health District Wednesday introduced a new program offering drive-thru COVID-19 testing that delivers same-day results.
The new machine — similar to devices used to test for the flu and strep throat — is able to produce results in 15 minutes, said Snohomish Health District spokesperson Heather Thomas. The health district received two of the machines from the Washington State Department of Health.
Snohomish County is one of the first counties in the state to receive the machines. Though the new testing method takes more time to collect and run than the former system, Thomas said the machine will ultimately allow them to deliver results faster and allow patients to seek medical treatment sooner.
“The idea is that they’ll (patients will) get the results now rather than having to wait two or three days,” she said. “At 50 to 75 (tests) a day in a county of over 800,000 people it’s not the silver bullet.”
Thomas said the new testing method is less invasive than previous testing, which required sticking a 6-inch-long swab into the back of the nasal passage through one nostril and rotating the swab. During Wednesday’s testing, patients were able to drive up to the health district building, where they were met by staff dressed in protective gear and handed a swab to collect their own nasal sample.
Swabs are then placed into the Abbott machine, which swiftly delivers results to waiting patients. In the event of a positive result, patients were counseled about self-isolating, advised to seek treatment for their health care provider and supplied with additional written material about the virus.
Initially, the health district planned to test the first 20 patients twice and send the second swab off to the state’s public health lab for analysis. However, all of the patients treated Wednesday ended up receiving a second swab.
In addition to health district staff, those on site to assist in conducting the tests included volunteer Medical Reserve Corps members, retired health care professionals and a school nurse.
Thomas said testing is available to anyone, but the health district is prioritizing those exhibiting symptoms of the virus. Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) added six new symptoms to the COVID-19 list. To see the full list of symptoms, click here.
“As long as you are symptomatic and you are still sick and have had the symptoms within the last 14 days, you’re eligible for a test,” Thomas said.
Testing was available by appointment only and on Wednesday, 50 patients signed up, meeting the health district’s goal to conduct at least 45 tests.
Testing will also be offered at the health district building — located at 6101 200th St. S.W. in Lynnwood — on Friday, May 1, for those exhibiting symptoms. To schedule an appointment, click here.
–Story and photos by Cody Sexton