Capstone Clinic temporarily shuts down some testing sites due to Mat-Su weather

Published: Jan. 3, 2022 at 7:15 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Capstone Clinic is one of the state’s main testing providers for COVID-19, but due to inclement weather in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, there have been ripples of site closures across the Southcentral region. This comes at a time when the state’s cases have risen, due in part to the holidays which are creating longer wait times, and the spread of the omicron variant.

“It’s busy,” said Capstone Clinic CEO Dennis Spencer. “We’ve seen about a doubling in our overall testing, and our percent positivity for that matter, in the last couple of weeks.

Spencer says they have tested 15,361 people over the period of Dec. 20-30 across all their sites. Capstone is even looking into adding other locations in Ketchikan and Juneau, but in Southcentral Alaska the weather has been disrupting testing sites from Palmer to Anchorage.

The Changepoint Church and Eagle River testing cites were not open Monday due to some of the crew having to commute from Wasilla. Spencer said he thought it would be best for the staff to not be on the roads for safety reasons.

The testing site at the Alaska Airlines Center was shut down due to mechanical problems with a collection vehicle. Spencer said there was a heating issue with the site’s collection vehicle and that they had to get it fixed before letting crews return, but according to him it should be back open on Tuesday, Jan. 4.

Over the weekend, the inclement weather caused a small shortage of rapid kits because Capstone’s warehouse is located in Wasilla, and it also shut down multiple testing locations in Wasilla and Palmer.

“The power fluctuations, I can’t keep my staff warm and I can’t make the machines work without power, so it becomes quite a complicated picture if we don’t have power,” Spencer said. “That and the wind makes also it pretty unsafe to be out there with the staff running around trying to do what they need to do.”

Before opening sites, Spencer said they have to make sure the sites have stable power as some of the machines take a 30 to 40 minute reset period to recalibrate when power is lost.

Spencer said now, Capstone is averaging 1,100-1,200 tests per day from its sites. One thing he said people should be aware of is that the turnaround time for test results may be disrupted for up to 24 hours, due to power outages disrupting the use of the company’s testing machines located in Wasilla.

Cases continue to rise across the state, with the health department reporting close to 3,000 additional COVID-19 cases in Alaska over the last five days as the omicron variant continues to spread across the country and world.

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