Free COVID testing clinic opens Tuesday morning at Vancouver’s Tower Mall site

The no barrier testing is free for anyone, regardless of insurance or immigration status

VANCOUVER — The new no-barrier COVID-19 testing clinic at the Tower Mall site in central Vancouver got a test run today, as employees with the city lined up to be tested.

A city of Vancouver employee collects a sample from another city worker during a test run Monday of a no barrier COVID-19 testing site at Tower Mall. Photo by Mike Schultz
A city of Vancouver employee collects a sample from another city worker during a test run Monday of a no barrier COVID-19 testing site at Tower Mall. Photo by Mike Schultz

Tents set up in the parking lot of the city-owned property at 5403 E Mill Plain Blvd will help to shield people from the rain expected this week as they line up in cars, or walk up to the clinic, which will be open five days a week, Tuesdays through Saturdays, 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m.

“Testing is really an important tool to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our community,” said Dr. Alan Melnick, the county’s public health officer and Health Department director during a virtual press conference on Monday morning.  “When testing is available, and people can get easily tested, that enables us to more quickly identify people who have COVID-19 and make sure that they’re isolated.”

Up until now, Melnick admitted, the county has been reliant on healthcare providers to do the bulk of testing. While many providers are doing so free of charge, there is often an office visit fee involved.

“Consequently, the amount of testing in Clark County has been lower compared to other counties in the state,” said Melnick.

The free testing site, which is largely funded by the Washington Department of Health, has the capacity to test up to 1,500 people per day. At full capacity, it would nearly double the total number of tests currently being done each week in the county.

Currently, the city and county anticipate there is enough funding to run the site for at least a couple of months.

In addition to significantly increasing the county’s testing capacity, it will also help to put a number of city employees back to work.

“It’ll be primarily folks from our Parks and Rec Department who work at our Firstenburg Community Center and Marshall Community Center,” said Dave Perlick, recreation manager for the department, “We also supplemented our staff on site with some folks from Northwest staffing services as temporaries.”

People driving up to get tested will enter the Tower Mall site from North Blanford Drive, said Perlick, while walk-up clients can enter off of Mill Plain Blvd.

Test observers work to collect COVID-19 test samples at a free no-barrier clinic launching Tuesday at the Tower Mall site. Photo by Mike Schultz
Test observers work to collect COVID-19 test samples at a free no-barrier clinic launching Tuesday at the Tower Mall site. Photo by Mike Schultz

Masks are being required for anyone visiting the site, though they will be provided if you forget to bring your own. Wait times are expected to be around 20 minutes, or longer during times of high demand.

Tests kits will be handed to people who arrive, and can be self-administered using an oral swab, which is then sealed up and handed back. 

Melnick said the tests will be run by Curative Labs, with results in as little as three days.

Those results will be sent by text message or email, depending on what the client selects. If those options aren’t available, a toll-free number and unique identification number will be handed out.

Melnick noted that the Curative oral swab tests have been known to have a higher incidence of false negatives, especially for people who are not currently displaying symptoms.

“We’re recommending this testing for people who are more likely to have COVID-19,” said Melnick. “So, people who are either symptomatic or close contacts to somebody who’s a confirmed case.”

Melnick added that people who have symptoms consistent with COVID-19 but still test negative with the Curative PCR test should get in touch with their healthcare provider to potentially follow up with a nasal swab test.

“If you are in close contact with somebody and you test negative for COVID-19, you still need to quarantine for 14 days,” said Melnick, “because you can test negative earlier in the quarantine period and then become positive later on.”
While pre-registration is not required, it is recommended. To do so, and get more information on the testing site, visit ClarkCountyCOVIDTesting.org.

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