Getting tested for COVID-19 for the holidays? In Washington, it’s straining the system

It’s a demand for COVID-19 testing that health officials say they’ve never before seen and while there is a surge in positive COVID-19 cases, many say the surge in people seeking testing is from those hoping to get a clean bill of health before the holidays.

“This appears to be related to holiday planning, people wanting to travel, people wanting license to socialize with each other and not heed the governor’s restrictions on indoor gathering. So it’s putting a lot of pressure on the testing sites,” said Seattle Fire Acting Capt. Brian Wallace, who’s coordinating the city’s testing sites.

The same long lines can be seen in Puyallup and Renton, where people are sometimes waiting an hour or more to get swabbed. On Friday, King County will open a new testing site at Highland Community College in Des Moines to try to relieve some of the strain.

What you need to know: COVID-19 testing

“We pride ourselves on not turning anyone away for testing and we want to test everyone that we can, but it’s still most important to test people that have symptoms and have known exposures and right now, this strain is forcing us to turn people away without appointments, some of those people have symptoms or they have known exposures,” Wallace said.

Health officials are also quick to point out that getting a negative result on a COVID-19 test will not protect you and loved ones who decide to socialize days later. A test will only determine if there are detectable amounts of virus in your body at the time of the test.

LIVE MAP: COVID-19 in Washington

‘It’s not going to tell us we’re ok in a week, it might tell us we’re ok for a day or two,” said Dr. Charissa Fotinos, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for Washington’s Health Care Authority. “We’re asking a lot of people. We’re asking people to forgo their holiday plans, to stay away from their friends and family, and really right now to reserve the tests for people who have symptoms and who are close contacts or if you were concerned you were contacted, but not to get a, ‘It’s ok to go out and about’ safety check.”