A COVID-19 testing site for first responders is set to open in Covington this week, according to city officials.
The site will be housed at the former Covington Elementary School site and will be used for emergency operations, along with providing virus testing.
“We are so thankful for our selfless first responders and want to ensure they can stay safe as they continue to serve our greater community,” said Covington Mayor Jeff Wagner. “By providing a dedicated testing site, we can identify cases more efficiently and make sure those who have contracted COVID-19 can stay safely away while those who remain healthy can continue to stay healthy.”
According to Covington police chief Andrew McCurdy, the site will operate about 10 hours per week (2 days a week). The site is tentatively set to open Tuesday, March 31.
In collaboration with the city, King County EMS and additional partners, Puget Sound Fire is setting up a by-appointment drive-through COVID-19 testing site on the property, specifically for first responders and medical personnel only as required by their agency. Testing staff are provided by Puget Sound Fire’s CARES program nurses.
Staffers at the site will wear reusable personal protective equipment that is more durable than standard PPE, which allows individuals to suit up and remain in the PPE for a longer period of time, said Capt. Joe Root, public information officer for Puget Sound Fire.
The King County Fire Chiefs Association is facilitating first responder testing sites in both North and South King County.
“It is a valuable resource to have in South King County,” Root said. “It facilitates the testing to make it simpler.”
The opening of the testing site does not give healthcare workers additional capacity to test regular citizens, he said, but acts as a fastlane for South King County first responders to get tested. As such, showing up without pre-approval is not permitted and the site is not open to the public.
The former school property is now a city-owned location and was selected as an emergency operations center because the property can easily accommodate the testing site without causing potential disruption to the surrounding community, according to Karla Slate, communications and marketing manager for the city of Covington.
Slate said the site will also be used for other functions if the coronavirus health crisis continues to worsen.
The site will provide additional space for on-duty personnel from City Hall to be able to follow appropriate social distancing guidelines and could also serve as a secure place to store extra supplies and equipment that may be needed if there is an increase in staffing levels due to potential increased calls for service, or if the site will be used for other COVID-related activities.