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Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms now advised to get tested

Gov. Inslee announced a broadened COVID-19 testing strategy Thursday, June 4. (TVW screengrab)

Previously, the medical advice in Washington state was for those not at high-risk of COVID-19 complications or those only experiencing mild symptoms to stay home, and that a test was not necessary. Gov. Inslee and state Secretary of Health John Wiesman announced updated advice Thursday, recommending that anyone experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, even mild, get tested.

Inslee referred to the expanded testing efforts as part of the “new strategy” to defeat the virus as we move away from social distancing measures and reopen businesses and congregate settings. Testing is one part of a four part process, he said, which also includes contact tracing, isolation, and masks.

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Earlier in the state’s COVID-19 response, testing capacity was primarily limited by a lack of supplies. While access to testing supplies has been a consistent problem, there are now more supplies becoming available. After months of advocacy from Washington state and other states, Inslee said the federal government stepped up to help with production and distribution of testing supplies in late April.

Washington received two-thirds of the promised testing supplies from the federal government in late May. Inslee acknowledged that the state is still doing its best to obtain more test kits moving forward.

“The good news: Our testing capacity has grown,” he said. “… But there is much more work to be done to fully contain this virus.”

This strategy and significant broadening of testing comes at the same time that more businesses, places of study, and congregate settings are reopening, and as more testing supplies are becoming available.

“If you think you’re sick, get tested.”

Inslee referred to COVID-19 testing as the first step in a four-step process so Washington state can move forward, and said it helps to measure each county’s progress in slowing the spread of COVID-19.

“If you think you have the symptoms, even mild, of COVID-19, please get tested,” Inslee said. “If you are a household member of a person who has the suspicion of COVID-19 or has come into contact with someone, please get tested.”

Anyone living or working in congregate settings who was likely exposed to COVID-19 should also get tested. Once you’ve been tested, Inslee reminded people to stay home until you receive a negative result to continue to limit any potential spread. New science shows how much of this transmission occurs early in the disease, Inslee said, often before you have symptoms.

To get tested, call your doctor or find a clinic with drive-thru or walk-up testing. There are more locations listed online here, and additional options are available for those unable to seek health care through a doctor or drive-thru clinic.

“I am really pleased to note that with more widespread testing now being available, this can really help with people’s piece of mind,” Wiesman added.

People will be able to know if they’re infected, and more testing will help us know if the pandemic is getting better or worse in Washington, he said.

“It’s really important that people quickly go ahead and get in and get tested,” Wiesman said.

Known symptoms of COVID-19 include: fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, as well as fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, a new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea.

“I know we have to kind of undo what we were told or learned here,” Wiesman said, as people with mild symptoms were previously encouraged to stay home and told that a test is not necessary. “We have to now kind of unlearn some of those messages.”

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