Over 20,000 kits to be distributed by Public Health for local COVID-19 testing needs

Update 4.19.20: On April 17, 2020, Public Health – Seattle & King County was alerted by UW Medicine to discontinue use of the 20,000 COVID-19 specimen collection kits donated to Public Health, due to a quality control issue with the viral transport media that preserves the specimen. The kits were recalled from all local partners who received them.

See related release by the Washington State Department of Health.

Original story: Thanks to donations of test kits from UW Medicine, Seattle Flu Study and the Washington State Department of Health, Public Health – Seattle & King County will be distributing needed supplies to test for the virus that causes COVID-19.

UW Medicine is contributing 20,000 test kits, prioritized for first responders, health care workers and people who live in high-risk congregate settings, including long-term care facilities and shelters.

The Seattle Flu Study (SFS), which is executing SCAN in partnership with Public Health, will be making 2,000 self-swab kits available to healthcare workers in long-term care facilities. These are primarily being provided as part of a study to understand coronavirus prevalence among healthcare workers, and may also inform recommendations for protecting patients. In addition, SFS will continue to offer testing to approximately 100 homeless shelter residents each week as part of a separate study.

The Washington State Department of Health is making 1,000 kits available locally for testing of emergency medical service provider through existing operations

 “These kits help address the urgency to increase testing for COVID-19 in King County. I thank our community partners who are helping to do the testing where it’s most needed at this time,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County. 

Test kits are an essential component in the testing process, and limitations in their supply have hampered the response to the COVID-19 outbreak both locally and across the United States.

Currently, in order to test, three things are needed: laboratory capacity, which continues to grow locally through UW Medicine, other hospital laboratories and private labs; personal protective equipment for health care providers who are administering the tests; and a testing kit, which includes a swab and a viral media that preserves the specimen until it can be tested.

Because of limited testing capacity, the Washington State Department of Health recommends that healthcare providers test people with COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath before those with fewer symptoms. Priority groups, such as first responders, healthcare workers, and those living in congregate settings like shelters, have different avenues for accessing testing than the general public due to their heightened risk.

Nearly all testing for illnesses in King County is conducted through the private health care system, including hospitals and community-based healthcare providers. Under normal circumstances, local public health departments do not have a primary role in either providing or monitoring the use and availability of testing in the community.

As part of the COVID-19 response, Public Health – Seattle & King County is working to address gaps in access to testing, particularly among safety net populations, and to promote equitable access and facilitate provision of testing resources to high priority groups.

Public Health – Seattle & King County has an infographic that explains the current testing process.