Representatives of Washington National Guard arrive in Pullman

National Guard representatives will determine location of testing site; around 20 more members will arrive Sept. 8 to begin testing



The number of positive COVID-19 cases has risen by over 400 since the first day of school, which is less than two weeks ago.


The Washington National Guard is being deployed to Pullman to assist with testing WSU students as the number of COVID-19 cases in Whitman County continues to grow.

Twenty-five members of the National Guard will begin testing on Sept. 8, said Phil Weiler, WSU vice president for marketing and communications.

Representatives from the National Guard will be arriving today to determine the best location for a testing site, said Troy Henderson, director of Whitman County Public Health.

The exact location of the future testing site is not yet determined. However, it is likely the site will be near “apartment land,” which is an area of off-campus apartments, because it is the epicenter of the virus, Weiler said.

Henderson said the National Guard should be able to administer around 200 tests per day, nearly doubling the testing capacity for Pullman.

In the last ten days, over 95 percent of positive cases are in the 18-25 age demographic, Henderson said.

Henderson said a positive test rate of over five percent is an indication that there is not enough testing occurring. Pullman currently has a positive test rate of 16 percent.

“We’re happy that resource is coming in and we hope to drive that positive test rate below five percent,” he said.

The National Guard contacted the Whitman County Health Department by email on Monday, Henderson said. The guard is currently assisting with testing in Yakima where there was a surge in positive COVID-19 cases.

How the National Guard will set up their testing site will depend on how much space is available, Weiler said. One option is getting permission from private property owners to set up a larger testing site.

“Hopefully having that outlet up on campus, with the National Guard helping to put that into place, will help take some of the pressure off our testing center and then Palouse Medical testing center,” said Megan Guido, Pullman Regional Hospital chief marketing and community relations officer.

PRH is currently administering an average of 61 tests per day. The majority of tests are being administered to students, Guido said.

WSU’s focus is making COVID-19 testing more accessible for students, Weiler said.

“We’d rather bring the tests to them, rather than asking them to have to travel to take the test,” he said.

The National Guard’s assistance is being federally funded through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Henderson said.

It is possible the unit will be stationed in Pullman until the end of the year, Weiler said.

“I would expect that they will be here for probably at least a couple of weeks if not months, if the need exists,” he said.

The William A. Crosetto Mobile Health Care Unit is another testing site offered for students, Weiler said.

The testing site is staffed by WSU faculty from the colleges of medicine, nursing and pharmacy, he said. It is an extension of Cougar Health Services and has the potential to test up to 80 students per day.

He said the site is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and is on Campus Street in Greek Row.

Students no longer need to contact their health provider and confirm they have symptoms before getting tested, Weiler said. Students should bring insurance information to the testing site with them.

If a student does not have health insurance they will be billed directly, he said.

The samples collected from the mobile healthcare unit and the National Guard’s testing site will be tested at WSU’s One Health Diagnostics lab, Weiler said. The lab was established on WSU campus in July to increase testing capabilities across the state.

Testing at the mobile sites is a quick process, he said. Results from the test can be expected within 24 to 48 hours because the samples are tested on-campus.

Students should get tested as early as possible before the holiday weekend, Weiler said.

“If we can get students out here tomorrow, by Friday we should be able to tell them [what] their status is,” Weiler said, “If they are ill, they should not be traveling.”

WSU is not currently looking into mandatory testing for students, he said.

“We are relying on voluntary testing so it’s really important for students to understand that they need to get tested,” he said.

A third testing site will be available after Labor Day weekend outside of Cougar Health Services, Weiler said. WSU acquired medical tents that will make use of the building’s loading bays.