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caption: A line of vehicles is shown on Wednesday, November 18, 2020, at the Covid-19 testing site on Southwest 10th Street in Renton. 
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A line of vehicles is shown on Wednesday, November 18, 2020, at the Covid-19 testing site on Southwest 10th Street in Renton.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Testing slots gobbled up by those wanting negative Covid tests for Thanksgiving

Negative coronavirus tests are the new golden ticket. Get one, lay low for a week, and you can spend Thanksgiving with your relatives indoors.

Not so fast, say health officials.

For starters, those testing sites are intended for people who may be sick with Covid – not for those wanting a safety check so they can socialize.

"Please, do not gather with people at Thanksgiving,” Jenny Durkan, the Seattle mayor, said. “We’ve seen a rush on our testing sites for people who are getting tested so they can gather. This is not the time to do that. We need to double our efforts to make sure that we get this virus under control.”

For those hell-bent on spending Thanksgiving with relatives, there are safer options.

Outdoor gatherings are best, with no more than five people.

Indoor gatherings: Start quarantining TODAY (Thursday), and get a test no more than two days before Thanksgiving. That means a test on Tuesday or Wednesday for results by Thanksgiving day.

Getting a test will be difficult, however, given testing saturation.

If you don’t have health insurance, the free sites in Seattle are quite full, and have wait times of an hour or more.

The Aurora Avenue site in north Seattle had a few slots left as of Thursday morning. West Seattle was booked until next week, and Rainier Beach and SoDo were basically booked until Thanksgiving.

There are free testing sites beyond city boundaries – because the virus is ripping through those areas like wildfire. Slots are available in the next few days in Auburn, Tukwila and Federal Way.

But even those sites are taxed.

Kathrina Westby-Sharman, an administrator at HealthPoint, which co-runs the Renton test site, said they had to turn people away for the first time this week.

She said the lines popped up, seemingly out of nowhere on Monday.

“They were coming from every direction,” Westby-Sharman said. “We had no traffic control.”

Healthpoint aims to increase staffing at the site so they can test more people.

For those who can pay for a test, some urgent care clinics offer tests, as do pharmacies.

Safeway, Albertsons, Bartell Drugs, Walgreens, and Rite Aid: Depending on the location, appointments may be available next week.

If you have insurance, call your health care provider. They might be able to point you to another place, and sooner.

UW Medicine also offers testing, but those booking appointments are available starting on December 1 for people with symptoms. For those without symptoms, the first available date is in January.

Dr. Charissa Fotinos leads the state’s testing efforts. On a briefing yesterday she had a reminder on what Covid testing can and CANNOT tell you.

“Testing tells you whether or not virus is detected on that day,” she said. “Doesn’t mean that in a day or two, if you were exposed a week ago, that you don’t develop symptoms and become infectious.”

The virus takes a while to percolate in your body. Getting a test isn’t like a magic cloak that protects you from getting infected tomorrow.

And the virus is rearing its head in our area at record breaking levels. The more cases we have, the more testing we need to stop the virus from spreading. People who know they are sick will quarantine themselves, and limit further spread.

That’s why those with symptoms should get tested, officials say, although capacity is limited.

This marked increase in people throughout the state getting coronavirus is why health officials are strongly urging people to stay home, and not gather with those outside their household.

By email, Frank Ameduri, a spokesperson for the state department of health wrote, “We strongly recommend that people NOT gather with others from outside their household on Thanksgiving or otherwise right now given the growth and amount of COVID disease activity we are seeing throughout the state.”