Beacon offers new community-wide testing option in Anchorage as COVID-19 cases rise
Anchorage Health Department requests more at-home test kits from the state
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Beacon Occupational Health and Safety Services, which has had a hand in COVID-19 recovery efforts in Alaska since the pandemic began, announced Tuesday that it’s opening a new community-wide testing location in Anchorage.
Partnering with Beechtree Molecular Lab, Beacon is opening a drive-through testing site at 701 E. Tudor Road, a location CEO Amanda Johnson said the company moved into in October. The Tudor location allows for the necessary space to host a drive-through site.
The new COVID-19 testing site is in response to several requests Johnson said Beacon has gotten, asking if the company could open one.
Johnson said that following the closure of some of the testing sites around the municipality, Beacon got multiple inquiries to see if they would provide a testing solution to augment the testing already happening in the city. Beacon’s drive-through site on Tudor is open to anyone, and tests are prioritized for those who are symptomatic or have had a potential COVID-19 exposure.
The PCR tests will be processed by Beechtree Molecular Lab and, according to Beacon, should be processed within 24 hours. There are no appointments necessary and people will be tested on a first come, first served basis.
Testing at this location will be free, though those with insurance will be asked to show it. Beechtree will process the charge to insurance for those who have it, Johnson said.
The new testing site comes as Alaska’s number of COVID-19 cases has risen dramatically over the last week compared to the week before. State case data showed a 262% increase in new cases this past week compared to the week of Dec. 20-26, a rise health experts are attributing to the highly transmissible omicron variant.
“With the evolution of the pandemic and the continued testing needs for the general community, again we had received multiple inquires asking if we would consider any type of offering,” Johnson said.
The Beacon testing site will be open at their Tudor location from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. The site will be closed on Sundays. For more information, call 907-206-2977.
Meanwhile, the Anchorage Health Department has given out the majority of the at-home COVID-19 test kits it got through a program offered by the state, and is requesting more. In a social media post made Tuesday, the department said it has distributed more than 20,000 of the 25,000 test kits it got from the state.
“Given the uptick in COVID-19 cases and demand for these tests, we’ve requested another 25,000 kits from the Alaska Health and Social Services,” the post reads.
According to the city’s COVID-19 testing website, two locations where the at-home tests have been being given out — the Spenard Community Recreation Center and the Fairview Community Recreation Center — did not have test kits to distribute on Tuesday “because of weather conditions in the Valley.”
Corey Allen Young, a spokesperson for Mayor Dave Bronson’s office, explained that Anchorage’s at-home test kits are being housed in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. The health department hopes to have to Spenard and Fairview locations restocked on Wednesday, according to the website, to be able to offer the test kits from noon to 4 p.m.
Capstone Clinic, which now operates testing sites in the municipality but is based in the Mat-Su, had to shutter testing sites in Anchorage on Monday as a violent windstorm continued to affect the Valley. Many of the company’s testing site staff live in the Mat-Su, and some of Capstone’s testing vehicles and machines were affected as well by widespread power outages.
Capstone’s CEO, Dennis Spencer, posted on the company’s social media Tuesday evening saying that Capstone staffing is now up to 90%, and the company posted earlier on Tuesday that most of its testing sites, including those in Eagle River and Anchorage, were back open.
“In a review of our crisis management options this week, we’ve realized an integral component of public and patient education is expedited, comprehensive communications,” the message from Spencer reads. “While Capstone maintains email, website, and social media platforms to update the public and our patients and vendors, we learned that streamlining and reacting to events like this week’s windstorm will require fuller engagement and more proactive channels.
“In other words: We need to communicate to everyone faster and more precisely,” the message states.
Citing large test volumes and larger demand for tests among the public, Capstone’s post warns that people in search of tests should be prepared for an hour to two-hour wait.
“All of our locations are experiencing lines and longer waits than we’d prefer because of escalating testing,” the post reads.
Capstone now operates the testing sites previously operated by the Municipality of Anchorage, but there are other testing options in Anchorage such as Walgreens Pharmacy and a number of local clinics. PCR testing provided by the state is available for ticketed passengers at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport through Jan. 31.
According to spokesperson Elizabeth Manning, the airport ran out of take-home COVID-19 test kits on Dec. 31, but more are available now and will continue to be handed out.
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