Washington's full testing capacity isn't used, UW Virology Labs says

SEATTLE -- You've heard it before: before businesses open, there needs to be greater testing for the virus.

But much of the testing capacity available in Washington isn’t being used.

UW Medicine, which has done more than half of the COVID-19 testing in Washington, said it has seen the number of tests decline 30 percent from the previous week. Officials say this is a similar situation others are seeing around the country.

“If you look across the US right now, there’s a lot of testing capacity that’s not being fully used,” said Dr. Alex Greninger, assistant director of the UW Medicine Clinical Virology Labs.

Greninger says America's complex medical system in which testing is tied to insurance an co-pays keeps many people from getting a test.

President Trump's own public health experts say more testing is essential to safely reopen the economy.

“We’re doing about one and a half to two million per week," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. "We really need to get up to two times that three times that.”

There are two types of testing:

    According to the Washington State Department of Health, there have been 138,642 viruses test in Washington. More than eight percent of people tested positive.

    Experts say we’d like to get enough testing to reduce that to five percent, officials said.

    While UW Medicine has not run out of testing supplies, other health care systems in our state have reportedly seen shortages of swabs and collection kits.

    “The swab shortages is really an issue," Dr. Greninger said.

    We need to change policies when it comes to testing, he said, to make it easier and less expensive to test people.

    Greninger said, businesses should test in the workplace, much like they offer flu shots.

    UW Medicine will start antibody testing Tuesday. He said we all have a responsibility to try and get the antibody test before we return to a crowded workplace.