Demand high, wait time up to an hour at some COVID-19 testing sites

With the surge in cases due to the delta variant and possible exposures, as well as the upcoming Labor Day weekend, testing for COVID-19 is in high demand.

There were long lines at the testing site on Aurora Avenue North on Monday. Drivers were directed by police officers and greeted by signs at nearby businesses that warned people not to take up their parking spaces.

“Clearly, a lot more people are getting tested now,” Camille Perrine said as she left the testing clinic after parking nearby and walking in. “It’s like last year again.”

Perrine is vaccinated and was notified by a vaccinated friend that they got a breakthrough case of COVID-19.

UW Medicine confirmed Monday that almost 100% of the cases it sees in the community are the delta variant.

“I think if enough people were to get vaccinated, it wouldn’t be as huge of a surge,” Perrine said.

“This is the busiest I’ve seen it,” Devin Curry said as he, too, walked to the clinic after parking a car to avoid the long lines. It was his third trip to the site during the pandemic.

“I’m trying to go away on Labor Day weekend down to Seaside, down in Oregon and have a good time,” he said.

First, though, he needed to get a test. He was exposed to a positive case at work.

“Are you vaccinated?” KIRO 7 reporter Linzi Sheldon asked.

“I am,” he said.

“Are they vaccinated?” Sheldon asked.

“No, they are not,” he said.

“Testing demand has been very high for the last two to three weeks, close to levels that we saw in the fall,” Patrick Mathias, UW Medicine’s vice chair of clinical operations in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, said. Mathias oversees all lab testing for UW Medicine. He’s seen how the rapid spread of delta among the unvaccinated is impacting the fully vaccinated.

“It appears about one-third of the positive cases are among vaccinated individuals,” he said.

Just two months ago, a maker of at-home tests, Abbott Laboratories, was dealing with a massive drop in demand. The company laid off hundreds of workers and destroyed test kits.

Now, demand for tests, company officials said, is “unprecedented,” but supply may be constrained in the coming weeks as production ramps up.

The Aurora clinic, Perrine said, was easy.

But Mathias said to avoid long waits, people may want to check out their smaller sites, such as the ones at Rainier Beach and West Seattle.

“Right now at our larger sites, for example, at Bellevue and Aurora, those sites are seeing a little bit longer waits,” Mathias said. “I think Bellevue earlier today was 30 minutes to an hour wait, and Aurora was similar — maybe a little bit less of a wait.”

Mathias also said UW Medicine is ready for increased testing demand as school starts. He told KIRO 7 that it will add staff at the testing clinics and can expand its hours and days of operation if need be.