Recent surge in COVID-19 cases increases need for testing: Know when to get tested and where to go

With more than 80% of all eligible residents in King County having received at least one vaccine dose, we have come a long way in slowing the spread of COVID-19. But with the rapid spread of the Delta variant and cases rising steadily in the last month, we are not in the clear and COVID-19 will be with us for the foreseeable future. There have been 227 new cases of COVID-19 daily in the last seven days—that’s a 59% increase from the previous week.

The rise in cases is likely a result of multiple factors including increased spread of the more contagious Delta variant and increased social gatherings, travel and other activities with businesses reopening, all with fewer people wearing masks.

Early testing is essential

Anyone with signs or symptoms of COVID-19 should get tested as early as possible regardless of vaccination status.

“COVID-19 testing remains essential, and people who have COVID-like symptoms should get tested promptly. This is important to both identify illness early so that people can get the care that they need and to prevent spread to family, friends and others,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County. “Vaccinated people should get tested even with mild symptoms to minimize any risk that they could spread the infection if they have a mild case.”

If you have been exposed to COVID-19

Whether you have been vaccinated or not, if you’ve been around someone who has a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, you should get tested 3-5 days after your exposure, even if you don’t have symptoms. You should continue to monitor for symptoms for 14 days following an exposure and if you develop symptoms isolate immediately and consider re-testing. If your test is positive, you should isolate for 10 days.

It is important to note that if you are unvaccinated and are exposed, along with getting tested you will need to quarantine for 14 days, even if you do not have symptoms.

Consistent with King County’s renewed masking recommendation everyone should wear a mask indoors in public spaces regardless of exposure or vaccination status.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms below, get tested for COVID-19 at a free King County testing site:

Woman wearing face mask with hand to mouth and coughing
  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea

Testing and summer travel: What do I need to know?

With more relaxed COVID restrictions, many of us are looking forward to being able to travel again. It is important to know, however, that travel increases the chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends limiting travel if you are unvaccinated and for everyone to take extra precautions if they do travel.

Here are some important things to keep in mind as you make travel plans within the United States:

  • Refrain from travel if not fully vaccinated. The CDC recommends that those who are not fully vaccinated delay their travel. If you must travel, follow safer travel options including a viral test 1-3 days before your trip. If you are traveling with children who cannot get vaccinated at this time, follow recommendations for unvaccinated people and choose safer travel options. 

  • Testing is not required if fully vaccinated. People who are fully vaccinated with an FDA-authorized vaccine can travel safely within the United States.

  • Check travel guidance before you go. While most states no longer require a test, travel restrictions vary by state based on vaccination status and is subject to change at any time, so it’s important to check state and local guidance before you go.

  • Wear a mask during travel. Masks are required indoors in travel hubs and on public transportation regardless of vaccination status. Follow all state and local recommendations and requirements for mask wearing and social distancing.

  • After travel requirements for fully vaccinated. It is not required to get tested before or after you travel if you are fully vaccinated, but you should still follow all other travel recommendations, self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms and isolate and get tested if you develop symptoms. During travel, if you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, you should get tested 3-5 days after your exposure, even if you don’t have symptoms and wear a mask indoors in public until your test result is negative.

  • After travel requirement for unvaccinated. Those who are unvaccinated must get a viral test 3-5 days after travel AND stay home and self-quarantine for a full 7 days after travel. They should also isolate and monitor for symptoms for a full 14 days and seek repeat testing if symptoms develop. See CDC guidance for unvaccinated travelers.

International travel

Those who are traveling internationally should check requirements of their destination country as they may require a test prior to arrival even for vaccinated people. See CDC guidance and testing requirements for international travel.

If you need a test for travel, King County sites cannot guarantee that you will receive a result within 72 hours of departure. For testing options that specialize in travel testing, visit the Travel and COVID-19 testing options through the Port of Seattle.

Where to schedule a free COVID-19 test

You can contact your doctor to request a test or go to a free testing site in King County. These sites are open to anyone, regardless of immigration or insurance status. It is encouraged to register for an appointment online before going to a testing site. Find the complete list of locations and hours here.

White canvas tent canopy which serves as the Angle Lake COVID-19 testing site in the city of SeaTac. Orange and white signage out front.
King County’s newest COVID-19 testing site at Angle Lake opened on July 9, with support from the Port of Seattle and the City of SeaTac. The site is just a 5-minute walk from the Angle Lake Link Light Rail Station and open Monday-Saturday from 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

What do I need to bring to my appointment?

  • A photo ID with your date of birth. Testing is available regardless of your citizenship/immigration status.
  • Insurance card, if you have insurance. If you have insurance, Medicare or Medicaid you must provide this information and the lab will bill them. You will not be charged for the test. You do not need to have insurance or a doctor’s note to schedule a test.
  • A well-fitted mask. As healthcare facilities, masks are required at all indoor and outdoor testing locations regardless of vaccination status.

How and when do I get my results?

  • All of King County’s test sites use an online results portal. After you take a test, you will be given instructions on how to check your results online.
  • Results are usually available within 48 hours, though it may take up to 72 hours.

Do King County testing sites meet travel requirements?

  • If you need a test for travel, King County sites cannot guarantee that you will receive a result within 72 hours of departure. For testing options that specialize in travel testing, visit the Travel and COVID-19 testing options through the Port of Seattle.
  • If you are planning to travel out of country, see CDC guidance and testing requirements for international travel.

Additional information and guidance on COVID-19 testing and COVID-19 travel can be found on our website.

Originally posted July 28, 2021