MOUNT VERNON — Staff at Skagit County’s COVID-19 testing site ran tests on 250 people Wednesday, the first day since the site was moved to the Skagit County Fairgrounds. 

The county operated a testing site at Skagit Valley College since April, but relocated to the fairgrounds because of weather. High winds repeatedly lifted tents at at the college, damaging equipment and putting staff and volunteers at risk, said county spokesperson Laura Han said.

Julie de Losada, public health analyst and testing site manager, said the new site is an improvement. Registration and testing are done inside a barn, which offers heat and shelter from the wind. 

"We were literally chasing (paperwork) around the parking lot," she said of the college site. "Morale is up because people are feeling more comfortable." 

Doors are kept open on both ends of the barn, allowing cars to drive through two lanes of testing, de Losada said. Staff also installed carbon monoxide detectors and fans to protect staff. 

Han said those seeking testing should use the address 501 Taylor St., Mount Vernon, to get proper directions. Searching Google Maps for the fairgrounds doesn't provide the right address, she said. 

Testing is available 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and noon to 7 p.m Tuesdays and Thursdays 

Wait times Wednesday hit about four hours, and staff had to turn people away at 2 p.m. to ensure they could test everyone who was already in line, Han said. 

At 8:30 a.m., an hour and a half before the site opened, 15 cars were waiting in line, according to county Public Health Director Jennifer Johnson.

The site will likely need more volunteers to assist with traffic management, de Losada said. 

With demand for COVID-19 tests increasing, Johnson said those who don't have symptoms should not seek testing. 

“We need to make sure we have testing available for those who need it most,” she said. 

Those with symptoms, those who have been exposed to the virus and those who have been instructed by a public health official should still get tested, Han said. 

A negative test is not a guarantee a person doesn't have COVID-19, and people should not use it justify indoor gatherings, including those on Thanksgiving, she said. 

"We don't want people to use the testing site to justify their risky decisions," Han said. 

Johnson said moving the testing site to county-owned property has cut administrative costs, but with federal CARES Act assistance set to run out at the end of the month, the site has enough funding to last only through December. 

She said staff will likely spend December seeking new funding sources in order to provide testing into 2021. 

Should it not be able to offer such testing, the county won't be able to quickly identify and quarantine those with COVID-19, possibly giving them more opportunities to spread the virus, Johnson said. 

— Reporter Brandon Stone: bstone@skagitpublishing.com, 360-416-2112, Twitter: @Brandon_SVH

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