With demand for COVID-19 tests maxing out available resources, Skagit County Public Health is restricting eligibility for tests and vaccinations at its county fairgrounds site.
As of Monday, the site is serving only those who live, work or go to school in the county, according to a county news release.
Additionally, testing will be reserved for those who are 5 or older, and have COVID-19 symptoms or known exposure to the virus, the release states.
The site reopened Aug. 30 amid a spike in new COVID-19 cases and a matching increase in demand for testing. It is open 5 to 8 p.m. Monday to Friday at the south gate of the county fairgrounds, 501 Taylor Street in Mount Vernon.
On average, site staff have administered 248 tests and 51 vaccine doses per day, which is about as many as staff can handle with the resources it has, said Public Health spokesperson Danica Sessions.
“It really comes down to supply and capacity,” she said. “We just don’t have adequate testing supplies (or staff) right now to continue to offer testing to all folks at this point.”
The demand for testing has been steadily increasing since the site reopened.
This change in eligibility was implemented to make sure demand doesn’t grow to the point that people will be turned away.
“We’re trying to stay ahead of the curve so we don’t exceed capacity,” Sessions said.
There is a nationwide shortage of the antigen tests used at the site, so there’s nothing Skagit County can do to build its own supply, she said.
County Public Health offices are once again open seven days a week so staff can work on case investigation, leaving fewer employees available to assist at the testing site, Sessions said.
Similarly, she said the change in eligibility will ensure vaccination demand stays manageable. Public Health leadership expects Pfizer booster shots to be made available to the general public next week, and capacity needs to be preserved in anticipation of this increase in demand.
Sessions said test site staff will ask those seeking testing or vaccination whether they meet this new criteria, but will rely on the honor system.
Sessions said antigen tests show results within minutes, meaning a positive result can allow someone to quarantine quickly and reduce possible spread faster than if they had received a slower PCR test.
But if someone has COVID-19 symptoms or known exposure and receives a negative antigen test result, Sessions said a false negative is a possibility.
“Our recommendation is to still quarantine yourself until you’re not feeling sick anymore, and to get a PCR test,” she said.
A full list of local testing providers is available at skagitcounty.com/coronavirus.