Thursday marks 2 years since first COVID-19 case reported in Washington

It has been two years since the United States was rattled by its first COVID-19 case, which was reported in western Washington.

A man in Everett who had just returned home from a three-month trip visiting family in China was diagnosed with COVID-19.

In the following months, the Seattle area became the epicenter of the early U.S. outbreak.

At Life Care Center in Kirkland, 39 residents died from complications from the virus within a four-week span.

At the time, there was no widespread testing taking place.

Since then, Washington has become one of the leaders in responding to the threat and was the first state to consider major closures and lockdown measures to try to cope with the deadly outbreak.

Seattle is now fighting the current surge from the omicron variant by expanding its testing options.

The federal government is also taking orders for free at-home COVID-19 tests.

Home tests have been in short supply lately but are slowly becoming available in stores. Insurance companies must cover up to eight tests per person each month.

Washington is also about to provide free tests.

“If you have a high-risk exposure, isolate, and by that five-day mark, go ahead and do the test. If you haven’t had a high-risk exposure, wait and watch for symptoms,” Dr. Peter Barkett with Kaiser Permanente said.

State health officials say they’ll soon announce a website where residents can order one test kit per household. Each kit will have four to five tests and should arrive within one to three weeks after ordering.

State officials ordered 3.5 million tests but say it will take a while to get them.

Despite the severity of what happened at the Life Care Center in Kirkland nearly two years ago, state hospital leaders say they’re now facing the toughest moment of the pandemic with a wave of people coming to hospitals.

State officials said there has been a 75% increase in COVID-19-related hospitalizations and nationwide, a staffing crunch is adding to the problem.