COVID-19 testing wait times have increased in Spokane County, here’s why

Here’s a hint: Thanksgiving travel.

SPOKANE COUNTY, Wash — Spokane medical professionals say they are swamped with COVID-19 testing, which would make sense since the cases keep rising. However, the people coming in for testing are not always sick.

Many people without symptoms are trying to get tested for travel purposes, according to health providers. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, urgent care sites are having to shut down early due to the massive influx of people.

The Department of Health is discouraging certain people from getting tested, and for good reason. Travelers without symptoms seeking tests are clogging up testing sites, according to four separate clinics in Spokane County. 

The health providers say healthy people are coming in to get clearance to travel for their Thanksgiving plans.

It is “insane” right now, according to an employee at the Providence Urgent Care in Downtown Spokane. The increase of people over the past week has put their average wait times for walk-ins to about 2 hours. 

CHAS Urgent Care in both North Spokane and Spokane Valley also have wait times around 2 hours, but they keep having to shut down, said a nurse. 

The clinics opened Sunday at 9 a.m. and had to close by noon because they were running out of tests. That means they did over 100 tests in 3 hours. 

MultiCare Indigo Urgent Care in Spokane Valley averages about 45 minutes, but they noted that most people will go to one of the bigger clinics. 

Walgreens has two locations doing testing. Their Millwood location said even though they only take appointments, they are always booked solid through three days in advance. 

The Spokane location also takes drive-thrus, but they are always slammed, they said. Tests are only supposed to take 72 hours, but the labs are so backed up that Walgreens employees are giving a wait time of 3-5 days for results.

The most important point each of these clinics made was travelers are booking appointments and taking spots from actual sick individuals. 

Health organizations are having to make new voicemails options for travelers, provide screening tests online and turn away people at the door, the sites said. 

The Department of Health echoes the clinics with their statement:

“To ensure testing access for Washingtonians with COVID-like symptoms or those who have had close contacts, we are asking the general public to not seek screening tests to attend Thanksgiving celebrations.”

If someone does not have any COVID-19 symptoms and has not been exposed to another person with a confirmed case, but they still feel like they need to get a test – medical professionals are asking you to go to make appointments at sites at Rite aid or Walgreens. 

Book Appointments for testing if you have symptoms or have been exposed to someone with symptoms:

CHAS only takes walk-ins

Walgreens, depending on location, may or may not take drive-thrus

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