Lengthy lines form as demand for COVID-19 tests in Anchorage rises

Published: Dec. 30, 2021 at 8:22 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A long line of cars waited for a COVID-19 test at the Alaska Airlines Center testing site in Anchorage on Thursday. Some in line said they waited over an hour to receive a test.

Demand for testing saw an uptick in Alaska’s largest city as New Year’s Eve draws near. The Anchorage Health Department announced on Thursday that it would be distributing 25,000 at-home test kits received from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. That shipment of tests was originally supposed to arrive on Monday, Mayor Dave Bronson’s office had said, but the city health department said there was a delay in that shipping due to the holiday.

The at-home kits are being distributed at the Fairview and Spenard Recreation Centers, but the location in Spenard had already run out by Thursday afternoon.

On Friday only, some will also be given out at the EasyPark Chinook Lot during the Anchorage New Year’s Eve celebration from 7-9 p.m. The test kits are limited to two per person while supplies last, and the city also points out tests are available at pharmacies and stores as well.

The Anchorage Health Department is distributing COVID-19 at-home test kits at the locations...
The Anchorage Health Department is distributing COVID-19 at-home test kits at the locations noted above in the map.(KTUU)

Traditional testing through a laboratory is also available at multiple sites throughout Anchorage, which can be found on the city’s website.

This demand for tests comes at a time when cases across the state are rising and six cases of the omicron variant have been officially detected in Alaska.

“We have seen a significant increase in case counts over the past week,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Joe McLaughlin. “Our increase has been about 66% since the previous week.”

McLaughlin added that the number of omicron cases in Alaska could be higher than the six they’ve sequenced so far, since the state virology lab in Fairbanks was shut down this week due to storms in the Interior. Since the lab in Fairbanks is shut down McLaughlin said they’ve screened tests in Anchorage.

“Our state public health lab here in Anchorage is doing screening for what we call ‘S gene target failure.’ And if a particular sample tests positive for S gene target failure that’s a highly likely indication of omicron,” McLaughlin said. “And of 69 tests that were screened for S gene target failure, 39 came back positive for S gene target failure, or 57%. So that means a majority of the cases that were processed were likely omicron cases.”

State health officials advise anyone celebrating News Year’s Eve to do it outside, keep the gathering small, wear masks, and get tested prior to gathering with others. Those traveling to rural Alaska are encouraged to get tests before they fly.

“Omicron is here and we are seeing an uptick in cases,” McLaughlin said.

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