Bellingham, WA – Mobile testing centers operated by Whatcom Unified Command (WUC) and the Whatcom County Health Department (WCHD) have reached maximum capacity. Many more people are seeking COVID-19 tests due to a sharp increase in virus activity and a desire to travel or gather for the holidays. The WCHD and WUC are still offering COVID-19 tests to everyone, but community members are asked to use the service judiciously.
Whatcom County Health Officer Dr. Greg Stern has asked Whatcom County residents who’ve signed up for non-essential COVID-19 tests to consider canceling their appointments to make space available for those who need to get tested the most: people with COVID-19 symptoms, members of vulnerable populations, close contacts of people diagnosed with COVID-19, and people who require a COVID-19 test before undergoing medical procedures.
“At this time we aren’t limiting our testing services,” Stern said, “but we are asking people who aren’t sick or at risk to abstain from testing right now. We need to make sure that testing isn’t delayed for those with the greatest need.”
Dr. Sudhakar Karlapudi, Chief Medical Officer for PeaceHealth Northwest, asked community members to stay local and celebrate the holidays with immediate household members only. Dr. Karlapudi asked community members not to rely on the hospital’s emergency department for travel-related COVID-19 testing.
“The emergency department at PeaceHealth St. Joseph does not currently provide standalone or non-urgent COVID-19 testing,” said Karlapudi.
Dr. Stern also said people should not be traveling or gathering with others outside their immediate households while there’s so much virus activity in the community. He asked Whatcom County residents to stay home this Thanksgiving and not get tested unless they experience symptoms related to COVID-19 or a health official has told them they need to get tested.
“Testing is important, but it’s most important if you’re sick or at risk,” Dr. Stern said. “If you don’t urgently need a test, don’t get one. Stay home, don’t travel, and celebrate only with the people you live with.”