State, county facing shortage of COVID-19 tests

‘It’s a little bit of a perfect storm’

ABBY DAVIS, Evergreen copy chief

Whitman County is experiencing a COVID-19 testing shortage as factors like the Delta variant and increasing outdoor events come into play. 

The issue is statewide and not specific to Whitman County, said Chris Skidmore, Whitman County Public Health director. In addition to being low on resources, the county is also struggling with not having enough staff to conduct tests.

Another component includes symptomatic people needing to get tested before they can return to school and various respiratory diseases going around with similar symptoms to COVID-19. 

“It’s a little bit of a perfect storm if you will,” Skidmore said. 

Skidmore said the health department was anticipating a large demand for tests and was able to order a decent amount of testing kits and supplies from the state until the first week of August when resources became more scarce. 

“We’ve placed a couple different orders, and we’re still waiting for them to get filled,” he said. 

People are still able to get tested; it might just take a little longer than usual, Skidmore said. The availability of over-the-counter products available at some pharmacies and online sites like Amazon is also low.  

Those with flu-like symptoms should take a rapid influenza test before getting tested for COVID-19, he said. The health department is working to create strategies and solutions to make more testing available. 

Skidmore said the distribution of COVID-19 cases is spread more evenly throughout the county than last year, with more cases occurring in areas with pockets of unvaccinated people. 

“We’ve gone up about a little over 120 cases per 100,000 just in the last week,” he said. “We are catching up with the rest of the state, which is not doing very well.”