Anchorage opens pop-up COVID-19 testing sites, encourages everyone to get tested

A row of cares lines up and a medical worker in a blue suit stands by at a window
Anchorage residents line up to be tested at the Loussac Library testing site on Nov. 16, 2020 (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

Anchorage officials are asking residents to get tested for COVID-19, even if they don’t have symptoms. 

The Anchorage Office of Emergency Management started opening pop-up testing sites around town on Friday in an effort to increase testing. Anchorage’s positivity rate has been above 10% for at least the last week.

The World Health Organization recommends that communities keep positivity rates below 5% to ensure that most cases are caught. For perspective, New York City closed in-person schools this week as the positivity rate approached 3 %. Meanwhile, some Midwestern states, struggling to contain the virus, have recently hit rates as high as 50%, according to tracking by John Hopkins University.

OEM Spokeswoman Audrey Gray said that Anchorage residents shouldn’t feel guilty about using the sites. 

“We wanted to make sure that everybody knew that it’s not a waste of a test, it’s not a waste of resources, to just go get a test and figure out your status,” she said. 

Janet Johnson, director of the Anchorage Health Department, said there are three main categories of people who should get tested: people with even mild symptoms of a cold of flu, people who have been in contact with confirmed cases, and people who have been in situations where they could have been exposed. 

Gray said that the testing site at Lake Otis is still by far the busiest and requires the longest wait. And the results from the Lake Otis test site are processed at a different lab and tend to take much longer. At the other test sites in town like the Loussac Library, Muldoon Community Assembly and Changepoint Church, results are generally back within 72 hours. 

Residents will likely have to wait to be tested. Gray said that she’s heard of an average of about an hour and a half wait time. 

Gray also said that test results taken earlier in the week tend to get processed faster than those later in the week due to the flight schedule of planes carrying tests to the Lower 48 for processing. 

Pop up sites are open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the following dates and locations

  • East High School – Nov. 20
  • Abbott Loop Elementary School – Nov. 21
  • North Star Elementary School – Nov. 23
  • Central Middle School – Nov.  27
  • Southside Costco – Nov. 28
  • Nunaka Valley Elementary School – Nov. 30. 

Additionally, the city’s regular free testing schedule is available at this website.

This story has been updated to clarify that pop-up testing sites began opening in Anchorage last Friday.