Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced Friday afternoon the city will introduce two new mobile coronavirus testing kiosks in North and Central Seattle in the next few weeks, in an attempt to further ramp up testing availability as the holiday season nears.
While the city is still in the process of nailing down the locations of the sites, which will provide free, self-administered oral testing, Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins said during a virtual news conference that they’re considering the Northgate or Lake City neighborhoods in North Seattle and the Capitol Hill or Central District neighborhoods in Central Seattle.
“We know testing is one of the critical things we need to have in place to fight this virus. … We want to make testing as easy as possible for the residents of Seattle,” Durkan said during the news conference.
The sites will likely be ready to go by the first or second week of December, with at least five more popping up throughout the city by mid-December. Durkan expects the new kiosks will add a capacity of 3,500 daily tests, meaning the city should be able to provide at least 9,000 tests per day.
“Imagine those home pods when people go to move,” Scoggins said. “They’re 8-by-8 containers.”
Once the kiosks are up and running, people will be able to register for appointments online. They’ll walk or drive up to the site, receive a swab package from a worker inside the kiosk, swab their own mouth, then place the swab back in a plastic bag and return it to the worker. Results will be returned within 48 hours.
The kiosks are a result of a new partnership with Curative, a company founded in January with the initial goal of developing a test for sepsis. As the pandemic worsened, however, it pivoted to prioritize coronavirus testing through a “self-collected, oral fluid swab,” said Curative spokesperson Miranda Gottlieb during the conference.
Curative has completed more than 7 million tests across 8,000 test sites in the United States. The company began widespread testing in March, and during the summer started deploying mobile testing kiosks throughout the country, reaching about 500 people per day at each site, Gottlieb said.
Because the kiosks are mobile, the city will be able to relocate them to different spots if necessary, though Scoggins said they’re trying to tackle areas that need testing most.
Since June, when Seattle launched its first two testing sites, the city has administered more than 375,000 coronavirus tests, Durkan said.
The sites should prioritize people who have symptoms or who think they’ve been exposed to the virus, not those hoping to get tested so they can attend a social gathering this holiday season, city officials said Friday.
“It’s important to meet the rapidly growing demands, because as you’ve heard, our outbreak has been exponentially growing,” said Patty Hayes, director of Public Health – Seattle & King County, on Friday. “We have a record number of COVID-19 cases in King County. … This is putting an enormous strain on our health care system, including the health care providers we rely on for critical care.”
Hayes ended the conference by pleading with the community to avoid large holiday gatherings, adding that doing so could likely turn the tide of the pandemic.
“I want to urge all Seattleites to continue to protect those you love,” Durkan said.