COVID-19 test results in Ketchikan are taking longer to come back due to a nationwide supply shortage, public health officials said Tuesday.
Public health nurse Arizona Jacobs says rapid testing kits are not available. Instead of 20 minutes, turnaround time now may take several days.
“Sometimes we need a solution to put the swab into in order to test it. So we’re missing some or all of the components for testing kits.”
Ketchikan Indian Community Tribal Health and Beacon, a state-contracted provider that does testing at the Alaska Marine Highway Terminal, have completely run out of rapid test kits, she said. Others are also experiencing shortages.
“Capstone, which is the contractor that works over at the airport, has not run out yet, but they will soon. So they are rationing tests. They can only do eight tests per hour for travel-related purposes only.”
Testing is still available. But Jacobs says test results are being delayed.
“Beacon is sending their swabs out once or twice per day depending on the flight schedule. And instead of an instant test, they’re looking at a 48 to 72-hour turnaround time. KIC is looking at a one to two, maybe three-day turnaround time as well. Because they’re also having to send off samples to the lab. So there’s no more rapid testing, for free, available in Ketchikan, at all, right now.”
She says if someone has insurance and wants to get tested, there are several private providers offering COVID-19 testing.
Those providers include Power of Wellness, Northway Family Health Care, PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center and Creekside Family Health Clinic. On Tuesday, each said they have test kits on hand. Some require a doctor’s referral, that the individual be symptomatic or is an established patient.
Jacobs says if people are symptomatic or have been exposed to a known contact, they should still get tested and isolate while waiting for results. She’s uncertain when supplies will be restocked and State-sponsored rapid testing will resume. She says the best thing people can do is to get vaccinated.
This update and clarification: While there is a shortage of some of the more precise COVID-19 rapid screening kits in Ketchikan, Ketchikan Indian Community Tribal Health says it still has rapid tests available. They also have more precise testing where results can be processed in 3-4 hours.