Drive-through COVID-19 tests for UW Medicine employees

Healthcare faculty, staff and trainees with respiratory infection symptoms can schedule a quick-to-administer nasal swab that is sent to a virology lab for testing.

Media Contact: Susan Gregg,

A drive-thru COVID-19 employee health testing site for UW Medicine opened Friday, March 6, at the University of Washington Medical Center-Northwest in north Seattle. Testing is provided to UW Medicine staff, faculty and trainees who have symptoms or an upper respiratory infection – fever, a new cough, and shortness of breath.

Dr. Seth Cohen, medical director of infection prevention and employee health at UWMC-Northwest, and clinical associate professor of medicine, Division of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the University of Washington School of Medicine, describes how the drive-through testing is done:

After driving up to the testing center, which is run out of tents  in an open-air parking garage, the employee stays in the car. A nurse, trained in infection control protocols and in using protective equipment, greets the employee and conducts the test. Obtaining a specimen for testing involves two separate nasal swabs, one in each nostril. The swabbing takes no more than one minute.  

Employees then receive guidance on next steps, and results within 24 to 48 hours. 

coronvirus gelling
UW Medicine colleagues help each other with infection control steps.

To date, more than 175 staff, faculty and trainees have asked about testing. Ninety-four have been tested for both the flu and COVID-19 as of Sunday, March 8, according to Cohen.  So far, none of those tested at the drive-thru site have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

 If anyone would happen to test positive, that employee would be notified immediately by our staff and given additional instructions on how to proceed. This usually includes home isolation unless the symptoms are worsening and the employee requires additional medical evaluation.

The healthcare professionals providing the testing are thoroughly trained in the use personal protection equipment and in infection prevention best practices. They receive continuing education and training on these protocols to keep them safe. The safety of our staff is our utmost priority.

Unfortunately no one knows yet how long the COVID epidemic will last, Cohen said. He added that we are preparing for the long haul in order to best support our community. It's important to point out that while the employees tested so far at the drive-through site have been negative for COVID, we are still seeing a fair amount of influenza in our clinic.

There are other COVID test sites for UW Medicine employees, including one at UW Medicine’s Harborview Medical Center in downtown Seattle.

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Tags:COVID-19employee health

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