State labs to start testing for coronavirus locally ahead of potential spread

SHORELINE, Wash. – The state Department of Health will begin testing for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) locally beginning on Friday morning.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Scott Lindquist said state labs will have the ability to run two rounds of 13 samples a day. If the samples are tested in the morning, results will be ready by 5 p.m. that same day.

State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy said quickly identifying people infected with coronavirus will prevent it from spreading.

“We’re working hard to keep the virus out of Washington and to keep the virus from spreading here,” said Dr. Lofy.

There are less than a dozen tests waiting to be done, according to state health officials.

As of Thursday, there was one confirmed case of coronavirus in Washington state. That man from Snohomish County was treated and released from the hospital.

Thirty-one people have been tested for COVID-19 in the state, with 26 of those tests coming back negative. Four of them are still waiting on results.

Coronavirus testing is done with two swabs: a swab in the mouth and a swab in the nose.

“To safely do this for a healthcare worker, you would have to gown up with an N95 mask, a face shield, a gown, gloves and then do the swab,” said Dr. Lindquist, who said a second healthcare worker monitors the person swabbing to ensure it’s done without any possible exposure.

Physician Assistant Gretchen Todd of Zoom+ Care said families at home need to practice good hand hygiene, washing hands often and keeping them away from the face.

“We all touch our eyes, we touch our nose, we touch our mouth all day long without even thinking about so that’s the big concern for spreading,” said Todd.

She said surgery masks are effective at protecting a person from the coronavirus, or other illnesses like influenza.

“If a surgical mask is worn you decrease the risk of getting the coronavirus by 85 percent,” said Todd. “So it’s a pretty good resistance - and again to stress we don’t all need to be running around in masks. That’s not the point.”

The N95 face masks are 95 percent effective at protecting a person from getting the coronavirus.

The CDC is recommending people who are sick to wear face masks. If you are healthy, face masks are not recommended.

State health leaders are advising people to stay informed and begin thinking about the potential for school closings and working from home if there is a coronavirus outbreak.

“Wash your hands, stay home when you’re sick, eat healthy,” said Todd. “Drink two liters of water a day. Have healthy lifestyle habits.”