A drive-thru COVID-19 testing site that has been operating in Anchorage since mid-March will close in two weeks, officials announced Friday.
The site, which provides free testing with a doctor’s referral, is set to close June 12, according to a statement from Providence Health and Services Alaska. The site on Lake Otis Parkway at East 42nd Avenue originally opened in response to the limited availability of testing in Anchorage.
“Now testing is more easily accessible and increasing within the community,” Providence said in the statement. “Additionally, with more surgeries and procedures now available, hospital staff supporting the testing site are returning to care for patients in their respective facilities.”
The site could continue as a testing location after June 12, Providence said, “potentially using alternative sources of staffing.”
Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz said during a briefing Friday that closing down the drive-thru site will limit the city’s testing capacity, potentially meaning that some people who should get tested won’t be able to.
“We are concerned that some of the tests might not be available moving forward,” Berkowitz said. “We want to make sure that everybody who feels that they might have a problem has access to testing so we can know for certain whether they’re safe, or whether they have an infection.”
The ability to test widely for COVID-19 is one component within a set of indicators that the Municipality of Anchorage evaluates as it loosens restrictions on businesses. Among other metrics, the city charts the availability of personal protective equipment, ability to do contract tracing and the trend in daily COVID-19 cases.
Berkowitz said that more testing gives the city a better ability to respond to an outbreak of COVID-19.
“When there is a lack of testing, that gives us cause for concern,” he said.
Berkowitz said he doesn’t expect the city to step in and operate a drive-thru site; instead, the city would work with a health care provider to stand something up. He attributed Providence’s plans to close theirs to a staffing issue.
The city is working with Providence to see what it can do to keep a drive-thru testing site in operation, Berkowitz said.
“It’s not necessarily the city’s job to do something, but it might be the city’s job to see that something gets done,” he said.
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