SITKA, Alaska (AP) — All residents of an Alaska city will be offered free coronavirus screening tests to help prevent the spread of the illness.

The Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium announced Monday that it will provide tests to everyone living in Sitka regardless of whether they exhibit symptoms, The Daily Sitka Sentinel reported.

Free testing by self-swab nasal collection will be available 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays at a drive-up testing center, the health consortium said.

People who are walking or on bicycles are also welcome, said Maegan Bosak, consortium marketing and communications director.

The testing has been funded through a grant from the U.S. Indian Health Service.

“We have been wanting to provide asymptomatic testing for quite some time and finally have the resources to do so,” Bosak said.


The consortium plans to offer additional testing in other Southeast Alaska communities beginning later this month, including Wrangell and Juneau.

Free testing of asymptomatic individuals in Juneau will be limited to tribal beneficiaries, the consortium said.

“Asymptomatic testing will be a reality in the coming weeks and paint a clear picture of how COVID has penetrated our region,” said Dr. Elliot Bruhl, the consortium’s senior vice president and chief medical officer.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. But for some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.