Organizers of the temporary site administered 121 tests in just five hours.
On Wednesday, June 3, as COVID-19 cases in Yakima County, WA surpassed 4,000, 121 individuals navigated through a channel of orange cones as they approached a temporary COVID-19 testing site set up in the student parking lot of Pacific Northwest University (PNWU). Thus far, nearly a quarter of the 16,000 individuals tested in county were COVID-19 positive, compared to just 6% statewide.
As the drivers weaved their way toward awaiting hazmat-suited National Guard members, who were set to administer the tests, the neighboring community was quiet. 97 people in the county had already died of the virus, and cases seemed to climb higher every day. Testing site organizers, which included the Yakima Health District, the Washington National Guard and the Yakima County Office of Emergency Management, hoped the effort would serve as yet another crucial step in addressing the pandemic in a county suffering from the highest rate of COVID-19 cases on the West Coast.
“While PNWU’s primary mission is training health professionals who will serve rural and underserved populations, we also have a very strong commitment to being a leader in Washington and throughout the Pacific Northwest in regards to promoting health and wellness and reducing the burden of disease,” said PNWU provost Dr. Edward Bilsky. "The pandemic requires a proactive approach to reducing the spread of the virus. Testing (and contact tracing) are tools the public health system can use to limit the number of cases over time. Testing sites such as this also provide us with an opportunity to educate our communities on approaches that can help reduce the spread of the virus, such as the importance of wearing a face mask, practicing physical distancing, and more.”
By 2 p.m., organizers had run out of tests. In approximately two days, those tested would receive their results by email, phone or letter.