Boom in COVID testing prompts Anchorage to open new drive-through site

a medical professional swabs a driver's nostril
Jose Urrutia gets a nostril swab on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021, afternoon at the Loussac Library, one of Anchorage’s free COVID-19 testing sites. The Municipality has seen a significant increase in the amount of individuals getting tested. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

Demand for COVID-19 testing is soaring in Anchorage. 

To reduce wait times, the city has opened the Alaska Airlines Center, next to Providence Hospital, as a drive-through testing site.

So far this month, the city’s drive-through sites are averaging about 750 tests per day, said Christy Lawton, the Municipality’s Public Health Division manager. That’s nearly quadruple the June daily average.

“Just this past Monday, on August 9, we saw the highest level of tests administered at the drive-through sites, totaling more than 1,100. We haven’t seen that number at that level since back in November of 2020,” Lawton said. “So it is a substantial increase.”

RELATED: Prisons in Seward, Ketchikan and Eagle River go into lockdown as COVID-19 cases rise

The percentage of positive cases is also climbing. It’s now at 7%. Lawton cites a number of factors driving the demand, including the delta variant, vaccination rates still low enough to allow the virus to spread, and concern about breakthrough cases.

“I think there’s just an increased awareness that even if you’re vaccinated, you should be paying close attention to symptoms and not hesitate to get tested if you have a symptom that is indicative of possibly COVID,” she said.

a shipping container and a sign that reads "COVID-19 TESTING SITE"
Vehicles line-up on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021, afternoon at the Loussac Library, one of Anchorage’s free COVID-19 testing sites. The Municipality has seen a significant increase in the amount of individuals getting tested. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

Despite the lines at some locations, Lawton said there is no shortage of tests these days. Anyone who has unexplained illness or who might have been exposed should go in for a nasal swab, Lawton said. Testing is free, regardless of residency, and no proof of insurance is required. Pre-registration might save some time but is not required.

[Sign up for Alaska Public Media’s daily newsletter to get our top stories delivered to your inbox.]

The busiest sites are the Loussac Library and Changepoint Church, where some people have reported waiting an hour. Lawton said she expects wait times will be minimal at the Alaska Airlines Center this week and next. It is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., seven days a week. 

Testing is available 24 hours a day at Ted Stevens International Airport at baggage claim. It’s outside security and non-travelers are welcome, Lawton said.

She encouraged people with questions about testing or vaccination to call the muni call center at 907-531-5100.

“That’s also the phone number to call if you need us to come to your home or to your work to vaccinate you,” she said. “We’re happy to entertain those requests.”

Lawton said the city will offer vaccinations or provide expert information at just about any gathering, such a community garage sale.

Previous articleNTSB: Pilot in fatal Ketchikan floatplane crash had prior accident one month ago
Next articleAsk a Climatologist: What’s with all the rain?
Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org.

No posts to display