Vashon Island residents to have COVID-19 Testing Project

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Vashon Island will have a COVID-19 Testing Project for island residents referred by a care provider. Vashon Island’s volunteer Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), in collaboration with Vashon Island Fire and Rescue, and VashonBePrepared, will open the project site on April 7, 2020, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and operate on weekdays as the availability of testing materials allows. Once the Vashon Covid-19 Testing team receives an order for the test from either an on or off-island care provider, a team member will contact the resident with instructions and directions. People arriving at the site without a referral will be turned away. Under existing Public Health guidelines, the team cannot provide a test without a care provider’s referral. Find details at https://testing.vashonbeprepared.org/.

The self-test costs $50 and will be billed to patients’ insurance. No one will be denied a test if they are uninsured. If insurance claims are denied for any reason, the Testing Project will pay the cost.

“Testing helps us identify who has the virus,” said Dr. James Bristow, retired pediatric cardiologist and former deputy director of the Joint Genome Institute at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. “Once we know who has the virus, we can contact others who have been exposed and test any of those with symptoms. The primary care providers who make referrals are a critical part of this tracking. This is the fastest and most efficient way to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

If you do not live on Vashon Island and would like to be tested, contact your care provider for a test site near you. Limiting visits on or off island for testing helps prevent exposing yourself and others to the virus.

“We need to begin testing so we can tell who is capable of spreading the disease, isolate and support them, and find out who they may have passed the disease to,” said Dr. Bristow. “Remember, it’s also flu and allergy season. Even now with over 4,000 confirmed cases in Washington, fewer than 10 percent of tested people with symptoms that could be Covid-19 end up having the disease.”

Testing is limited to symptomatic residents at risk for severe disease, first responders, those who provide essential services, and those people who have had contact with someone infected with COVID-19. Symptoms of Covid-19 are fever, cough and difficulty breathing. People with these symptoms, or exposed to someone who has Covid-19, should call their healthcare provider and discuss whether to get a test.

If a Vashon resident does not have a healthcare provider, they may call Neighborcare Health at 206-548-5710 or Vashon Natural Medicine at 206-463-4778 to discuss their symptoms. Testing is available to all Vashon Island residents regardless of whether they receive their primary care on or off Vashon.

“The number of cases in King County is doubling every six days. We can do better here on Vashon. The most important thing that islanders can do is stay at home and absolutely minimize their contact with people outside their home,” said Dr. Bristow.

The COVID- 19 Testing Project’s strategy is to minimize the exposure of the volunteers and the community while conserving limited personal protective equipment for hospitals and clinics. Residents remain in their vehicle during the test. A volunteer will give them a self-test kit with instructions on how to administer the test and return the sample.

Using the self-test, a resident will use a small swab to collect material from their nose. This self-collection process is simple and easier than the test seen in recent news. The test is similar to those used by the Seattle Flu Study and the SCAN project and was recently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after a study showed the test identifies over 90% of COVID-19 positive patients.

“Diagnosis is the first step to treatment. To diagnose COVID, you have to test for it. If we can identify who is infected, we can better help those infected while also protecting our island community and our off-island communities from viral spread,” said Dr. John Osborn, ER physician, Seattle VA Veterans Administration hospital and co-coordinator of the Vashon Medical Reserve Corps (MRC).

The COVID-19 Testing Project team will collect insurance information when scheduling the test and this will be sent with the sample to the diagnostic lab that will bill health insurers. By billing insurance, the Testing Project will conserve donated funds for those without insurance.

“Vashon’s geographical isolation from the rest of King County may have bought us some time, but the clock is ticking,” said Dr. John Osborn, ER physician, Seattle VA Veterans Administration Hospital and co-coordinator of the Vashon Medical Reserve Corps (MRC).