A new COVID-19 community testing site will open Tuesday at State Fair Park and be available through the end of the year.

The drive-through site is designed to test up to 500 people a day, Yakima Health District officials said in a news release and news conference Thursday. It will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday except on Thursdays, when it will be open from 1 to 7 p.m.

Testing is free and available to anyone over 3 months old regardless of insurance or immigration status. Those with insurance will be asked to provide their insurance information but will not be billed for testing. Multilingual staff members will be available at the site.

All visitors must wear a face mask and remain in their car while at the testing site. Registration isn’t required, but people are encouraged to preregister for a test online at www.wacovid19.org/Yakimatesting/ or by calling 211. Results will be provided by phone within 24 to 72 hours.

As of Tuesday, 74,073 COVID-19 tests have been conducted in Yakima County since the start of the pandemic. Through those, health officials have been able to identify 12,752 cases of COVID-19, the total reported by the health district late Thursday afternoon. Expanded testing is important for that reason, they stressed.

Testing helps reduce cases

Ambitious testing means early identification of cases and quick isolation to ensure the disease isn’t passed beyond close contacts, who can then quarantine. That helps reduce disease activity.

“Testing is just one of our tools to help stop the spread,” said Lilián Bravo, director of public health partnerships for the health district. Others include staying home when sick, wearing a face covering when out in public, social distancing of at least 6 feet, limited socializing and vigorous hand-washing.

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Dr. Tanny Davenport, physician executive of medical group operations at Virginia Mason Memorial hospital, stressed that anyone with any COVID-19 symptoms should get tested.

“We know that we’ve come a long way. We’ve made huge strides and testing is clearly a huge part of curbing this pandemic,” he said.

Those who may have been exposed to coronavirus — whether they have symptoms or not — or are concerned they may have it should also get tested.

“COVID is still real in Yakima County. ... We’re not through this yet,” Davenport said. “We do not have a vaccine. We do not have a cure.”

Dr. Teresa Everson, county health officer, had set a goal of 1,500 tests a day, Bravo said. That goal hasn’t been reached; the highest amount of COVID-19 testing in Yakima County on a single day was 985 tests completed on June 9, according to data Bravo provided. But the new high-volume community testing site, along with others in Yakima County, could make a big difference.

The health district organized the new testing site with partners that include Virginia Mason Memorial, Signal Health, Health Commons Project, the State Department of Health and the University of Washington.

“We are excited to partner with these organizations to expand testing capacity in Yakima County in our shared goal of a safer community. Increased testing will allow us to identify more COVID-19 cases, isolate infected individuals and limit the spread of the virus,” said Andre Fresco, executive director of the health district.

“This site will also give residents more access to free, low-barrier COVID-19 testing,” he said.

Reach Tammy Ayer at tayer@yakimaherald.com or on Facebook.