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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Washington residents can now order free at-home COVID-19 tests through state website

UPDATED: Fri., Jan. 21, 2022

By Laurel Demkovich and Arielle Dreher The Spokesman-Review

OLYMPIA – Washington residents can now order free at-home COVID-19 tests online from the state.

The site, sayyescovidhometest.org, went live Friday. Those who do not have access to the internet can call the COVID-19 hotline (800) 525-0127 to order tests.

The supply of tests in Washington is still limited. The state had expected to receive an additional 3.5 million tests from suppliers in recent weeks to give out using this portal, but as of Friday, they only had 650,000 at-home tests to give out. Those tests are available to order on a first-come, first-serve basis.

“Not everyone who wants a test will be able to order a test through this process,” Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah told reporters Friday.

Until supply increases, households only will be able to order one kit each. Those kits will either have four or five tests, depending on how they were packaged. The number of residents who will be able to receive one of those tests in this first round depends on the number of people in their household and the number of tests the household receives in a kit. The state has 650,000 tests, not kits.

As the state receives more tests, the site will restock, deputy secretary for COVID-19 response Lacy Fehrenbach said.

“We’re getting tests off of shelves and out into homes as quickly as we possibly can,” she said.

Once ordered, tests will arrive within one to two weeks, Fehrenbach said.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced earlier this month that Washington will distribute millions of free at-home tests and masks to help fight the omicron surge. The state expects to deliver 1 million tests to K-12 schools, 1 million tests to local health departments and 3.5 million through the portal.

Shah said he does not know exactly when the state will receive the additional tests it is expecting and waiting “has been very frustrating,” but the state is doing everything it can to get tests out as quickly as possible.

Health officials encouraged residents to remain patient. At-home tests also can be purchased at pharmacies or online, and most insurers will cover the cost. The federal government launched a similar portal earlier this week. Each household can order one kit with four tests for free at covidtests.gov.

Because there is still such high demand, those who already have tests at home or another way to get tested should not order from the state site right now, Fehrenbach said.

The site is run by Amazon and CareEvolution. It follows a similar pilot project in Eastern Washington that delivered about 800,000 kits in the past few months.

Local testing access still strained

Testing resources remain stretched in Spokane County.

The two community testing sites were forced to operate with limited staff on Friday, allowing only those with appointments to get tested. The health district hopes the sites can reopen to drive-up appointments by Monday.

The omicron variant has led to many staff at the sites being out for quarantine or isolation, similar to elsewhere in the community, from schools to health care facilities.

The community testing sites are also experiencing capacity challenges, said Kelli Hawkins, SRHD spokesperson.

Labs, which are already handling a large amount of samples with the increase in testing, need to be able to handle additional samples before the site can open up for longer hours or more days a week, which the district plans to do in coordination with Discovery Health MD, the sites’ operator. The organization is hiring additional staff to keep up with the demand.

COVID deaths increasing in state

Deaths due to COVID-19 are increasing again in Washington. Earlier this month, about 10 people were dying from the virus each day, but now the seven-day average is 15 to 20 deaths per day due to COVID-19.

The Spokane Regional Health District only reports COVID deaths when the virus is listed as a cause of death or contributing factor of their death on a death certificate. This means if someone dies of a bodily injury, for example, but happens to be COVID-positive as well, they are not counted as a COVID death.

The Panhandle Health District reported more COVID deaths in 2021 than in 2020, and more deaths in younger people due to COVID-19 in 2021 than in 2020.

Similar to Washington, in Idaho, COVID deaths are only reported as such if the attending physician or coroner determines it to be their cause of death. As an example, a person who dies in a car accident who also happened to be COVID-positive would not be counted as a COVID death in the health district’s reported death count.

In 2020, 194 Panhandle residents died from COVID-19. In 2021, 606 Panhandle residents died from the virus. The area also had more overall cases in 2021 than in 2020, though specific numbers weren’t immediately available.

Here’s a look at local numbers

The Spokane Regional Health District reported 1,743 new COVID-19 cases on Friday and one additional death.

There have been 1,179 deaths due to COVID-19 in Spokane County residents.

The district warned that due to the high volume of data, staffing shortages and the state health department updating its reporting system, daily case counts will continue to fluctuate. It’s best to evaluate the overall trends versus daily case counts for an accurate picture of the current virus situation in the county, the district said in a news release.

There are 165 COVID patients hospitalized in Spokane.

The Panhandle Health District reported 269 new COVID cases on Friday, but there are still approximately 3,405 backlogged cases at the district.

There are 91 Panhandle residents hospitalized with the virus, and Kootenai Health is treating 90 patients with COVID-19 as of Friday morning.

Laurel Demkovich's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is primarily funded by the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund, with additional support from Report for America and members of the Spokane community. These stories can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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