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More people are now eligible to get tested for COVID-19

Do you have a symptom? Have you been exposed? More testing opportunities make it easier to find out if you have COVID.

Expanded COVID-19 testing will help our community heal. Following Centers for Disease Control and Washington State Department of Health guidance, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department announced expanded testing criteria to health care providers June 5

More testing resources and expanded testing criteria will help public health better understand where COVID-19 is in our community.

Get tested if you have participated in a large gathering, if you have symptoms or have been exposed to a person with COVID-19. It helps us know where the disease is occurring so we can limit its spread. It helps us know who to monitor for symptoms and ensure people get the care they need. Testing also can help prevent others from getting sick when people with COVID-19 isolate themselves until they are well.

A woman wearing P P E holds a test tube labeled COVID-19 test

Getting tested.

For many months, you have heard about limited testing resources. People asked to be tested and sometimes providers had to say no. Providers had to prioritize limited testing resources.

Now, Pierce County has more testing resources available, and new testing guidance means anyone who has symptoms and those concerned about COVID-19 exposure can request testing from a healthcare provider.

Now, providers who have testing resources can test patients who:

  • Have new onset of COVID-19 symptoms, regardless of age or health status.
  • Are asymptomatic with known exposure to COVID-19.
  • Have been to a demonstration or other large gathering.
  • Are Black, Latinx, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, Native American, or Alaska Native. These communities suffer more greatly than others from COVID-19.

Pierce County residents who meet any of these criteria should request testing from their provider or take advantage of community testing opportunities.

In recent weeks, testing has become much more convenient. Mass testing events—such as Kroger Health’s testing at the Tacoma Dome, and expanded testing at Walgreen’s pharmacy, and at many care providers—made testing convenient for more people.

Pierce County will sponsor testing June 27-29 at Spanaway Lake. Soon, testing trailers will come to communities with limited transportation and other places where people need testing. The trailers will come with equipment and supplies to test anyone for free. People are encouraged to attend and get tested if they were exposed to someone with COVID symptoms or were in an area where physical distancing and hand washing were difficult.

The pandemic also brought disparities in our racial and ethnic communities to the forefront. As of June 11, the hardest hit communities per 100,000 people are:

  • Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islanders (3,147 cases).
  • Hispanic (1,643).
  • American Indian/Alaska Native (1,404).
  • Blacks (1,279).

We plan to prioritize mobile testing for these communities.

Testing of and tracking COVID-19 is a vital step toward healing these and all communities. If you are experiencing symptoms or took part in recent gatherings where you could not safely distance yourself from others, it’s time to get tested.

Find COVID-19 testing options closest to you.

Why get tested?

When you get tested, you find out if you are well or if you need to take precautions to prevent those around you from getting sick. You learn about your individual health.

Testing also helps public health help you—and it helps us learn about overall community health. We track test results to better understand where and how disease spreads. We test certain vulnerable groups to help prevent greater spread of disease in our community. Public health workers called contact tracers follow up with anyone who tests positive for COVID-19.

Thanks to CARES Act funding, we recently increased our contact tracing capacity to ensure we can contact new positive COVID-19 cases with 24 hours. We check in each day with people who test positive for COVID-19 to learn about changes with symptoms and to connect them with healthcare or other services if needed.

We ask people who are close contacts of people with COVID-19 to quarantine for 14 days while monitoring for any symptoms. We connect those who can’t isolate safely with options.

Public health has a strong track record of this work and a knack for building relationships with people. They trust our guidance—and follow it—when we need them to take steps that keep others from getting sick.

Our contact tracers—or disease investigators—help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our community.

The next step.

We hope to apply for Phase 3 of the state Safe Start Washington plan in the weeks ahead. We can’t do that without more knowledge of where COVID-19 is. While many people follow our daily case count page to see if we are under the 25 cases per 100,000 residents measure, fewer people have tuned in to our testing requirements.

We technically did not meet all metrics for Phase 2. But because the state Secretary of Health considered other factors, such as our contact investigations and health system readiness, we were approved for Phase 2. We will have to improve our total number of tests and overall percent of positives to be ready to apply for Phase 3.

What testing shows us about our community’s health picture.

With your cooperation and continued diligence, we will continue to heal and be ready for the next step toward normalcy when the time comes to enter Phase 3 of the Safe Start Washington plan.

For information on testing opportunities, go to the Health Department testing page and subscribe to our blog at tpchd.org/notify. For more information, visit tpchd.org/coronavirus.