As summer turns into fall, all eyes have turned to the possibility of a vaccine in the coming months. But the Washington State Department of Health wants to remind people across the state about the importance of COVID-19 testing.

To make it easier to find a test near you, the Department of Health has created a new webpage to help people find COVID-19 testing locations throughout the state.

The Health Department says one of its primary testing goals is to increase the amount of people getting tested. “The best way to do this is to make sure that people in counties with high positivity rates have access to testing and are proactively getting tested when they need it,” said Dr. Charissa Fotinos, state COVID-19 testing leader and Deputy Chief Medical Officer for Health Care Authority. “Right now, this is not happening enough, and we need it to drastically increase if we are going to stop COVID-19 from spreading rapidly, especially in disproportionately impacted communities and among our essential workers.”

Tests are being offered in a variety of settings: Through doctor and healthcare provider offices, some pharmacies, and community health clinics. Some places in the state have set up drive-thru and mobile clinics. There are also tests that can be ordered online and performed at home. And tests are free for people who have symptoms or who have been exposed. Insurance companies are not allowed to charge co-pays, facility fees or require prior authorization when someone is being evaluated for and tested for COVID-19. We need to prioritize our testing among people with symptoms of COVID-19 and those who have been directly exposed to someone with COVID-19.

The key to testing success is having more people seeking it out when they need it. Dr. Fotinos said, “We want people to have a plan to get tested should they need it. We want the experience to be easy, positive, and accessible no matter when you may need to get tested.”

Testing plays a major role in how well we control the spread of COVID-19 in Washington. Testing, as well as the wearing of face coverings, keeping physical distance from those outside your household, and frequently washing your hands, coupled with calling back public health staff who are conducting case investigation and contact tracing to track down the virus and stop transmission, is a key to managing this pandemic in the long term.