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COVID-19 testing demand surges in Cowlitz County
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COVID-19 testing demand surges in Cowlitz County

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Self-administering COVID-19 test

Nataly Cantor, right, self-administers a COVID-19 test at the Cowlitz County free drive-thru testing site at the fairgrounds in Longview in January.

The demand for COVID-19 tests has increased since early July in Cowlitz County, limiting same-day appointments at some testing locations.

COVID-19 tests do not appear to be as scarce as they were back in the fall and winter when it took up to two weeks to get an appointment, said Stefanie Donahue, Cowlitz County Health and Human Services communication manager. The department is working with health-care facilities to identify ways to expand testing capacity locally, she said.

Cowlitz County has seen a significant increase in cases since early mid-July. The county recorded 112 new confirmed cases and two new deaths Tuesday. Cowlitz County has recorded a total of 113 deaths, 8,165 confirmed cases and 903 probable cases (individuals with a positive antigen test and no positive molecular test).

PeaceHealth St. John Medical Center expands COVID-19 unit; Cowlitz County records 200 new cases

Wahkiakum County reported five new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, bringing the total to 189, with 18 potentially active. The county health department considers cases with a positive test result in the last 21 days to be active. Wahkiakum County has recorded five COVID-19 deaths.

As of Tuesday morning, PeaceHealth St. John Medical Center had 46 COVID-19 patients, up from 39 on Monday. PeaceHealth requests people do not go to the emergency room for a COVID-19 test unless they are having a medical emergency because the hospital is busy with a surge in patients.

Most health-care facilities in the county offer COVID-19 testing, according to the county health department.

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The main types of tests to detect COVID-19 infections are molecular tests and antigen tests, according to the state Department of Health.

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Molecular tests, including PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests, look for genetic material from the virus that causes COVID-19. Results take longer, but are the most accurate available, according to the department.

Rapid antigen tests look for certain proteins on the virus surface. The results are faster, but are less accurate in most circumstances. The department advises people get a confirming molecular test if the antigen test is positive or if they are symptomatic and the antigen test is negative.

Walgreens and Rite Aid in Longview offer free tests, but are booked a few days out, Donahue said. People can make appointments for a COVID-19 test on the companies’ websites. Walgreens offers molecular tests and two types of rapid tests, according to its website.

Pacific Urgent Care in Longview offers rapid COVID-19 testing on a first-come first-serve basis for people with symptoms or who have been exposed for at least five days, according to the clinic’s voicemail.

Cowlitz Family Health Center tests patients and people without insurance and has seen a big jump in testing requests, Chief Executive Officer Jim Coffee said.

“We are not backed up, but requests have more than doubled,” he said.

Kaiser Permanente also has seen a surge in testing demand, said spokesperson Michael Foley. Tests for members are by appointment and the clinic has same day or next day availability, he said. The clinic returns results in 24 to 48 hours.

Anyone who has symptoms or who may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 should get tested, whether or not they are vaccinated or have previously been infected, according to the health department.

People who are waiting for their testing appointment or results should stay home and away from others, except to get medical care, according to the department. They should watch for COVID-19 symptoms, which can appear two to 14 days after exposure.

Symptoms can include cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever, chills, muscle pain, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell, according to the Department of Health. Less common symptoms include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

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