Starting Friday, people looking for a COVID-19 PCR test will no longer be able to get one from Thurston County's public clinics.
The last day to take advantage of the county's free community PCR tests will be Friday, July 1 at Union Gospel Mission in Olympia, according to a Public Health and Social Services calendar.
This action brings an end to the county's testing clinics that rotated between locations in Lacey, Olympia, Rainier and Rochester. COVID-19 disease activity has remained elevated in recent weeks but hospitalization rates have fallen compared to rates during the winter Omicron wave.
PHSS recommends those looking for tests order at-home rapid antigen tests from Say Yes! COVID Test or through the U.S. Post Office. People also can find over-the-counter tests and testing services at pharmacies and some local health care providers, according to a PHSS flier.
PHSS will focus on its "testing strike teams," which visit congregate care facilities where outbreaks occur, said interim PHSS director Kurt Hardin during a June 21 Board of County Commissioners meeting.
If needed, Hardin said PHSS will consider relaunching its testing for the public. He said the county continues to have access to test kits from the state Department of Health at no cost to the county.
"So therefore, we will still have an ability to provide the public with testing capacity but we're going to focus on long-term care facilities," Hardin said.
Health Office Dimyana Abdelmalek said PHSS will still distribute rapid antigen tests to community partners while focusing its teams on high-risk settings that may not have sufficient testing capacity.
State and federal agencies had completely reimbursed the cost of the county's PCR testing, Hardin said. Starting July 1, he said the county will start paying about 10% of the cost for the strike teams.
Hardin said the county has recently scaled down its testing to conserve resources as demand has dwindled. He said 5-10 people visit these test sites over a three-hour period.
Despite the low demand, Hardin said PHSS would continue them through Thursday because they had previously published them on a public calendar.
"We feel an obligation as we published this program through the end of June," Hardin said. "We want to make sure that we follow through with that commitment to the public."
PCR tests are more accurate than over-the-counter antigen tests, Hardin said. However, it can take a couple of days to get a result versus just minutes with an antigen test.
PHSS recommends people with symptoms quarantine and isolate while they await a test result.
Those who test negative with a rapid antigen test despite feeling symptoms should either seek out a PCR test or remain isolated and take another antigen test in 24-48 hours, Abdelmalek said.
Thurston County permanently closed its COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Capital Mall in Olympia on Monday. However, vaccination events are still being planned at a variety of locations that are regularly updated on the PHSS website.