Fairbanks Free COVID-19 Test Center Sees Fewer Folks

Aug 11, 2020

Sponsored by Fred Meyer pharmacists and staffed by Alaska Public Health Nurses, the free, Tuesday/Thursday COVID-19 drive-up testing center is at the Carlson Center. Pictured here on July 23.
Credit Robyne / KUAC

The number of recorede positive COVID-19 cases in Fairbanks has declined.

The free COVID-19 testing center is open again today in the parking lot of the Carlson Center in Fairbanks. The drive-up testing tent is a collaboration between Alaska Public Health Nurses and the regional pharmacists from Fred Meyer. Alaska is processing about 10-thousand virus tests each week, but still cannot do enough.


Public health officials would like to do what’s called “surveillance” testing. That’s when we test everyone in an area to figure out who of us is sick, then isolate those sick people until they are better. Several countries have managed to do this and have no more community spread, but the US still does not have enough of the chemicals needed for the test kits.

Clint Brooks of Fairbanks Memorial Hospital says that is true of Alaska, too.

“The issue we face is the reagent.

Even so, a person who gives a sample for testing in Fairbanks is likely to get their test results back in about three days.

Fewer people are coming to Interior Alaska test centers in August than did in July. But the test positivity rate, which doubled in July has so far in August remained about the same. That’s the ratio of positives to the samples taken, and it’s about 2.3% since August 1.

Elizabeth Burton, the Regional Public Health Nurse says the number of people coming through the free, drive-up testing every Tuesday and Thursday at the Carlson Center in Fairbanks, had been dozens each day but dropped at the end of July.

“I think when we opened  4 weeks of steady numbers.”

Burton said two weeks ago, 69 people came through the tent one day, but last Thursday, that dropped to 10 people.

“I think the message is out in Fairbanks. Perhaps we are seeing the favorable result of people trying to comply.”

Today, August 11, there are about 20 people signed up to get a test there. Burton says Fred Meyer has agreed to keep the site open twice a week, at least through Labor Day.

Burton says Public Health took rapid test machines to several sites around Fairbanks. Partnering with Tanana Chiefs Conference, Interior Community Health Center and Foundation Health Center they moved sites over eight days to get more people tested.

“We decided that this might be a good strategy to do some pop-up testing around the city to reach populations that weren’t able to get into health care.”

Burton says the rapid test machines need to be returned to the state’s warehouse in Anchorage, but pop-up test centers might be used this fall and winter as drive-through sites become impractical.