People rush to get COVID-19 test ahead of holiday gatherings despite quarantine recommendations

No one likes an unwelcome guest during holiday plans. That’s why people are rushing to get in line for COVID-19 testing so they don’t bring the virus with them.

"I want to make sure I get the COVID test before I invite him over to the house because he’s very vulnerable," said Shari McPherson while making reservations for a free testing site at Bellevue College.

Officials with Public Health – Seattle & King County said the safest option this holiday season is not to gather with people you don’t live with. However, not everyone is staying at home as much as health professionals are recommending, especially as more people are making last-minute plans.

Health professionals are encouraging people to reserve their spot for testing so they can at least know their status. The health department offers free testing countywide, with the newest location at Bellevue College.

"I think it’s just the right thing to do," said McPherson. "Everybody can get tested and there’s no reason not to."

Though testing is important, experts at the University of Washington Bothell said it would all go to waste if people don’t isolate themselves right afterward.

"Forget the whole test," said assistant professor Dan Bustillos. "If you get tested and go directly to an event or a place like a shopping mall and you don’t practice really good hygiene or good social distance or that sort of thing, then be prepared to get tested again before you go to the holidays because you’ve just potentially exposed yourself."

The health department has about 50 testing sites throughout the county, some of them require proof of health insurance. An interactive map is available for people to find a location closest to their neighborhood.

Officials said the average wait time in line is between 15 to 45 minutes. The health department will have each result within 24 to 48 hours, and highly encourages people to make a reservation. With that quick of a turnaround, officials said the wait time for testing could increase with the rush of people making last-minute holiday plans.

"Especially if you value all the people around you that you’re going to be spending time with," said McPherson.