Washington health officials report testing backlog


The Washington State Department of Health is warning residents not to get tested for COVID-19 unless they are sure they are showing symptoms.

“Demand for COVID-19 testing has increased across the state of Washington as disease transmission continues to rise,” the department's statement reads. “To ensure testing access for Washingtonians with COVID-like symptoms or those who have had close contacts, we are asking the general public to not seek screening tests to attend Thanksgiving celebrations.”

The news comes as the state's hospital bed capacity sat at 63% on Monday, which is still below the agency's stated goal of maintaining less than 80% bed capacity.

According to the DOH, its testing system can receive and process roughly 33,000 test results each day. The last several days have pushed that system to its limits with between 30,000 to 50,000 tests per day, the DOH reported.

Many Washington counties, including Seattle's King County, have expanded access to free testing and seen rapid increases in traffic as a result.

On Thursday, the DOH added nearly 2,000 lab-confirmed cases and 11 new deaths. More than a quarter of that total was recorded in King County.

There are currently 53,000 backlogged testing results which the DOH describes as “a mix of negative and positive COVID-19 tests, and test results for other notifiable conditions such as tuberculosis.”

The backlog caused them to underreport the actual number of confirmed COVID-19 cases. Washington nonetheless surpassed 2,000 COVID-19 cases on Friday.

“The backlog of results means that the number of new COVID-19 cases reported the last two days is an undercount and likely does not reflect disease trends,” the statement read. “Our temporary action will ensure we receive positive COVID-19 results and the DOH dashboard of the epidemiologic curve and the Governor's Risk Assessment dashboard of the rate per 100,000 newly diagnosed cases reflect disease trends.”

Inslee joined Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and California Gov. Gavin Newsom last week in issuing a travel advisory asking people traveling across state lines to isolate themselves for two weeks to curb the spread of the pandemic.

Gov. Jay Inslee instituted a four-week shutdown of most businesses last week and is facing growing pressure from inside his own party to convene a special legislative session to pass aid for affected workplaces.

On Friday, Inslee announced the state will be releasing $135 million in CARES Act funds for struggling businesses, workers, and families affected during the shutdown.

Up to $70 million of that money will go to grants while another $30 million will be offered as loans for small businesses. Around $20 million will pay for residential rent assistance. The remaining $15 million will go towards energy assistance for low-income residents.

The Washington Hospitality Association estimates that as many as 100,000 Washington workers in its industry stand to lose their jobs due to the shutdown.

As of Friday, the state's total caseload to date was 141,260 while the death toll stood at 2,619.

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