Seattle adds 4th COVID-19 testing site, state plans more contact tracers

The City of Seattle opened up a fourth COVID-19 testing site in West Seattle on Friday.

The location is at the Chief Sealth High School Athletic Complex at 2801 SW Thistle Street. According to city officials, the new site has the capacity to perform between 600-to-1,000 tests per day. It will be open Monday-Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

"We are still encouraging people with any symptoms to come get tested at whichever location has availability," said Lt. Brian Wallace of the Seattle Fire Department. 

The latest COVID testing site in West Seattle is a walk-up location. Combined with the city's three other sites, officials said they can perform 3,000-4,000 tests daily. According to Wallace, the West Seattle location was one that was needed.

"Because West Seattle is disconnected due to the broken bridge from the rest of the city, it was harder for residents here to get tests. We also wanted to be adjacent to White Center, Burien, and Auburn," said Wallace.

The best way to get a test is to log onto the city's website ( Walk-ins are also welcome.

"You can totally just walk-up and we'll register here on-site. Even when we're busy, the longest wait you should experience at one of these sites is somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes," said Wallace.

The tests are for people or live, work, or regularly visit Seattle, according to officials. 

As we approach the fall season, the state is looking to add more contract tracers.

"The concern is that with school's opening and Labor Day around the corner, there certainly could be an uptick in cases and we want to make sure that we have the staffing," said Candace Miller, Project Director for Washington's COVID-19 Contact Tracing Partnership.

According to state officials, there are 187 National Guard Members trained as contact tracers. There are also contact tracers in county jurisdictions as well. But come September, troops are scheduled to be reassigned, said health officials. The state reached out to private firms and non-profits to fill the void.

"We're aiming to have about 200 contact tracing case investigation staff ready to make calls by mid-to-late September," said Miller. 

The state has hired through CARES Act funding, the firms Mathematica, Comagine Health and Allegis. Training for contact tracers takes about a week, said Miller.

"They're able to do that work with empathy and care and quality. There are many data entry pieces of that, so staff has to be trained on data security," said Miller.

She hopes people understand the importance of their work.

"So that we understand who else might have been exposed, where they believe they were exposed and really persuade them into the importance of contact tracing," she said.

In Seattle, the city has two drive-up locations. One is located at 12040 Aurora Avenue North, the other is in SODO at 3820 6th Avenue South. The two walk-up sites are at Rainier Beach at 8815 Seward Park Avenue South, and the other location is in West Seattle. 

"Turnaround time is improving at the labratory, but we're telling people that it takes anywhere from 24-to-72 hours to get the results of your test," said Wallace.

Testing is free of charge.