Bainbridge Island opened its drive-thru COVID-19 rapid testing site at Town Square Wednesday in an effort to support public health goals and the reopening of schools and businesses.
The site, next to City Hall at 280 Madison Ave. N, will be open by appointment only from 1-5 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for anyone who has COVID symptoms, has been exposed to a confirmed case, has recently traveled and/or needs a test to return to work, a city news release says.
“One of the things that we heard over the last few months was that it was very difficult to get a COVID test unless you were symptomatic,” Emergency Management coordinator Anne LeSage said. “If you’re asymptomatic but have a known exposure, you need a test to return to work or for some other reason, it was very difficult to get the test. We decided to support our community by setting up this drive-thru testing site.”
The testing site will not be open on Saturdays, as initially planned, to avoid any potential impacts with the Farmers Market schedule.
The site is expected to increase testing capacity on the island by approximately 80 per week. The schedule could be adjusted in the future based on demand.
“Our first four or five days, all our appointments are booked,” LeSage said. “We’re seeing a lot of response from our community, a lot of gratitude for getting this up and running. It is open to anyone. You don’t have to be a Bainbridge Island resident. We need people to make appointments ahead of time. At this time, we don’t have the ability to accept walk-ups. Moving forward we can see about 24 people a day.”
Also, volunteers from the Medical Reserve Corps and Bainbridge Prepares will help oversee the testing with support from LeSage and COVID-19 safety officer Chris Rubin. To make an appointment go to bainbridgewa.gov/COVIDtest.
The test will be a nasal self-swab PCR test. Medical observers will walk participants through the test, swabbing each nostril for 10-15 seconds on both sides before putting it back in the test tube and delivering the specimen back to staff.
The city will work with the University of Washington Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology to process the tests. It is anticipated test results will take 24 to 48 hours. There is no cost. If a person has health insurance then the provider will be billed. If a participant does not have insurance, a federal program will pay the cost.
The City Council approved up to $50,000 for six months of testing, which includes the cost of PPE, testing materials, information technology equipment and other supplies. LeSage said she expects the site to be operational through December and probably into January.
One of the major reasons for setting up the site was to help open the Bainbridge Island School District to in-person learning. But because of staffing issues and an increase in coronavirus cases countywide that has been delayed from this month to January 2021.
“I would imagine especially through the holidays, we know we’re seeing an uptick across the country as people are now heading indoors,” LeSage said. “We’ll continue to update the community on what our schedule is moving forward.”