Temporary site opens in Puyallup to help increase COVID-19 testing availability

A new drive-thru COVID-19 test site opened Monday at the Washington State Fair in Puyallup. The location’s first day saw a full parking lot hours before it opened. 

Pierce County Emergency Management offered the temporary site to help increase testing availability in the region as demand increases.

"Try and get as many people tested as possible. This one week we’ve seen a big increase in the number of people seeking testing at our other locations. So, we’re just trying to provide another site so that people can get in and get tested as quickly as possible," said Mike Halliday, the public information officer for Pierce County Emergency Management.

Halliday confirmed staff members are using PCR tests and guests should expect results within three to five days. Testing is available Monday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

A line of cars wrapped around the block of the fairgrounds’ Gold Lot on Monday morning as people arrived early for testing. At 3:30 p.m., the testing site closed for the day after reaching full capacity. Just before it closed, there was a three-hour wait for those in line. 

"We tried to get here as early as possible, get a good spot in line," said Izaya Magana, who showed up an hour before the testing site opened. "I was thinking we’d have a little bit better spot, but I guess we did what we could do and everybody is thinking the same thing."

RELATED: Omicron now dominant virus strain in King County, western Washington

"A couple of our family members were tested for COVID and they were positive. So, the whole household was pretty much sick, so we decided we needed to go ahead and get tested as well," said Matt Toban, while waiting to get tested with his wife.

As COVID-19 cases surged across the region, so did the demand for testing. Washington State Department of Health said the highly contagious Omicron variant is causing the sharp increase in the positivity test rate.

Pierce County Emergency Management opened the temporary site for one week to give people another option for testing since availability has been hard to find almost everywhere for the past several weeks. The department operates a few other sites that fill up quickly on a daily basis.

"The Sunday after Christmas, we tested over 600 people at our Lakewood testing site. By Tuesday, we had tested over 1,500," said Halliday.

RELATED: Pierce County opens COVID testing site in Puyallup, citing high demand

Nathan Neideigh said he was notified Sunday about possibly being exposed to COVID-19. He said he was experiencing symptoms over the weekend.

"Spent all day yesterday trying to find testing spot, but the lines were long as you see here," said Neideigh.

He showed up to the fairgrounds three hours early to be the first in line at the new site.

"It is what it is. I had to miss work today to get tested. So, I mean it’s better to wait three hours to get tested than not get tested at all. That’s the way I look at it," said Neideigh.

Halliday said emergency management hopes to test 300 to 350 people an hour—up to 2,100 per day at the fairgrounds site

"I seem to be getting better. So, I don’t know if it’s COVID or not, but we’re about to find out," said Neideigh.

Information about all testing sites operated by emergency management can be found online. Officials encouraged people to search their community for other agencies and organizations that are offering COVID-19 tests. Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department has a list of sites on its website.

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