Bracing for another surge in COVID-19 testing as Christmas travel approaches, the District is making some changes in how people register for the tests.
The D.C. government operates free COVID-19 testing sites across the District. Due to increasing demand, D.C. officials have contracted with a new testing lab, Curative, to handle testing at the Judiciary Square and Nationals Park testing sites.
"What we want to do is make sure we keep that test turnaround down to 3-5 days," said Chris Geldart, director of D.C.'s COVID-19 response team.
Geldart says D.C. has seen a significant spike in the number of people getting tested.
For months, the average had been about 10,000 tests per week, but the week before Thanksgiving, that number jumped to 25,000. And in the weeks after Thanksgiving, it's been about 17,000 test per week.
With more holidays and family gatherings over the next few weeks, Geldart expects the testing sites to get busier.
"For us, that's good; the more tests we do, the more we know of the prevalence of the virus in our community," he said.
There’s a change in how you pre-register for testing. The online system now asks you for proof of insurance, including a picture of your insurance card. If you don’t have insurance, you must upload a picture of a government-issued ID.
"If you do not have insurance or ID, you can still absolutely get tested at all of our sites," Geldart said. "You can come here; we can register you when you're down here on-site."
Geldart says in the first two weeks since D.C. began asking for insurance information, it's saved the District about a half a million dollars in testing costs.
"Between 50 and 60% rate of folks using insurance, [in] rough numbers that’s about $500,000," Geldart said.
Lauren Goldstein, who manages the Judiciary Square testing location, says Mondays and Tuesdays are typically the busiest, but she encourages people to take advantage of the free tests.
"Don't be afraid," she said. "We're all here to help and support you. We know it's a scary time. We're all just here to help."
You don’t have to be a D.C. resident and there are no copays.
Geldart also said they have "warmed up" the overflow hospital at the Washington Convention Center, meaning they turned on lights and air filter system so it's ready if needed.