Kitsap’s efforts to ramp up testing gaining steam

Kitsap County’s new test site in Bremerton is rapidly expanding testing, county health officials said during Tuesday’s monthly Kitsap Board of Health meeting, as the local public health district aims to find every case of COVID-19 in the county.

The site, in Pendergast Park, opened Oct. 26 in coordination with the Kitsap Emergency Operations Center and has been running three days per week with the goal of increasing access to low-barrier testing.

On the first day of testing, 78 residents showed up and nine tested positive for COVID-19. That day, the Kitsap Public Health District had 35 confirmed positive cases overall, the highest single-day number since the pandemic began.

On Nov. 2, the site set a new record with 128 residents tested. No prior medical visits are required.

“The test site has been a tremendous asset to the community,” said Dr. Gib Morrow, the county’s health officer.

Efforts to beef up testing locally is picking up steam.

Bainbridge Island planned to open its drive-thru testing site next to City Hall Wednesday and will be Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Olympic College is working with the health district to offer one-day-per-week testing at both the Bremerton and Poulsbo campuses, which has the added benefit of giving first-year nursing students valuable clinical experience, said Jessica Guidry, the district’s public health emergency planner.

“This really is a testament to the demand,” Guidry said.

The increased testing comes as COVID cases rise not just in Kitsap County, but all over the state, country and world. Kitsap County had 62 positive cases per 100,000 in the past 14 days as of Tuesday afternoon. That number bounced up and down throughout October, reaching a high of 65 Oct. 5 and to a low of 42.2 Oct. 19.

Early data from the state Department of Health for the end of October and early November shows the state poised to see an increase in cases. Some countries, such as the United Kingdom, Germany and France, have recently instituted more restrictive measures due to more cases.

“The basic reality is we need to work together to bring this virus under control,” Morrow said.

He shared some data with the board of health that showed how the virus has spread in Kitsap County. As of Sept. 30, 41 percent of confirmed cases were contracted from another person in their household. 20 percent came from an associated outbreak — defined as two or more cases with an epidemiological link for people who do not live together. There were 51 separate outbreaks identified prior to Sept. 30.

A further 17 percent were reported to come from a close contact in the workplace; 11 percent who tested positive reported recently traveling out of state; and 7 percent reported attending a large social event, such as a party, wedding or funeral.

“I think we’re getting a better sense of what’s truly going on in Kitsap, and it’s not entirely pretty,” Morrow said.

The holiday season is approaching, and residents will be tempted to gather to celebrate. While minimizing contact with people outside of the household is important to tamping down the spread of transmission, Morrow also advised residents to wear masks and keep track of close contacts so that any disease activity can be quickly traced.

“It’s an easy, simple, incredibly cost-effective, inexpensive way of protecting ourselves and protecting each other,” Morrow said.