LONG BEACH PENINSULA — The cavalry has arrived on the peninsula, as a new covid-19 testing option becomes available for south county residents whose previously only choice for receiving a quick result was making the nearly hour-long trek to South Bend.
Beginning this week, Peninsula Pharmacies is providing drive-thru rapid testing by appointment on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with the expectation that results will be available within just a few hours. It’s the first rapid testing option to become available on the peninsula since the pandemic began last spring; Willapa Harbor Hospital in South Bend has been offering rapid testing for several months.
Test-seeking individuals who are symptomatic or those who have been identified as a close contact of a positive case will also receive a PCR test at the same appointment, to confirm the results of the rapid test. The PCR test is sent to an out-of-area lab to be processed, with results expected to be known within 3-5 days.
Those seeking to get tested can visit www.covidtest360.com to schedule an appointment and receive the address of the drive-thru testing site. The tests will not be provided on-site at a pharmacy. The test site is a block east of the Pharmacy on the south side of Spruce St.
Appointments will be available in the morning, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
According to the Pacific County Health and Human Services Department, testing via the pharmacy is free for those with Medicaid, Medicare or who are uninsured. Individuals with private insurance must pay up front — $95 — and will be given a receipt that can be submitted to the insurance provider for reimbursement. If you are unaware of your insurance provider’s process for covid-19 testing, the health department encourages you to call your insurer ahead of getting tested.
In addition to providing twice-weekly testing, the pharmacy will also be able to help stand up a large-scale testing event on other days if the need arises, in the event of an employer outbreak.
Phillips decries south county testing availability
Peninsula Pharmacies’ plan to begin offering drive-thru testing had been in the works for some time, and was announced during last Wednesday’s Pacific County Emergency Management Agency’s Council meeting. But even with the new testing option coming to the peninsula, Long Beach Mayor Jerry Phillips argues that the testing options in south county have been inadequate.
Some south county residents have sought to be tested at Columbia Memorial Hospital in Astoria, but the hospital asked the county to stop advertising that they are providing testing, according to county health director Katie Lindstrom. The hospital is not providing drive-thru or appointment testing, and a test will only be given if it is ordered by one of the hospital’s medical providers after examining the individual, she said.
Phillips argued that without Columbia Memorial Hospital as a testing option, a person who becomes symptomatic later in the week, after Thursday, would not be able to obtain a covid-19 test until the following Tuesday at the earliest, “and so they’re going to walk around spreading it when they have symptoms.” PCEMA Director Scott McDougall reiterated that anyone who is symptomatic should be isolating and staying away from their place of work.
“If people are symptomatic, they need to stay home. Having a test doesn’t change the fact that you need to stay home if you’re symptomatic,” Lindstrom said.
Phillips lamented that testing in south county was limited to only a few days a week, said that south county has gotten the least amount of testing and persisted with his opinion that people who are symptomatic, but can’t receive a test right away, will choose not to self-isolate until they receive a test.
“On a Friday or a Saturday, where do we direct people to get a test? Or do we just stick our head in the sand and say ‘Oh well, just walk around until Tuesday or Wednesday and then you can go get your test,’” Phillips said.
Currently, Lindstrom said, testing is available in south county on Tuesday and Thursday. Additionally, testing will be available starting next week and lasting through the holiday season in Long Beach at the county offices on Wednesday and in Raymond on Thursday and Friday via a state-contracted healthcare provider that was brought in because of the county’s recent surge. Willapa Harbor Hospital also continues to provide Monday-Thursday rapid testing, she said.
“We don’t have testing seven days a week in both ends of the county, but between the two ends we have it five days a week,” said Lindstrom. “And then if it’s really urgent, people have to go to the emergency room or urgent care. But we cannot provide seven-day-a-week testing; we don’t have the capacity. Just to get to where we’re at now took a lot of work.”
“The answer is if somebody — on Friday, after testing is done— if they’re sick and they want to go get a test, they need to wait until Monday and come to Willapa Harbor Hospital. If it’s urgent, they can go to urgent care or the emergency room and take their chances on whether or not the provider thinks they need a test.”