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Our Distribution Plan for Remaining COVID-19 FEMA Tests

Assistant Division Director of Communicable Disease Stephanie Dunkel
by Stephanie Dunkel04/02/2020 4:11 p.m.
Updated: 04/03/2020

Update April 3, 2020

Since our original post yesterday, we have distributed 900 of the remaining 1,400 FEMA test kits. Here is the breakdown:

  • 500 to long-term care facilities with outbreaks.
  • 190 to federally qualified health centers.
  • 100 to first responder testing sites.
  • 40 to the Key Peninsula area (a rural area).
  • 70 to the Puyallup Tribe.

That leaves 500 tests to distribute to rural clinics or healthcare system testing sites. Read our original post below to learn more about our distribution plan.

Original post April 2, 2020 

Between March 21 and 25, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, Pierce County Emergency Management, Pierce County Medical Reserve Corps volunteers and others helped 996 people to get testing at a drive-through event at the Tacoma Dome. People at higher risk for COVID-19 and those who provide critical services for our community could get testing at this event. Of the results that came in so far, only 2% were positive for COVID-19. 

FEMA provided more tests but hadn’t given approval for the Health Department to use the remaining tests. They were in storage at a secure warehouse. On April 1, 2020, FEMA released its test kits to Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department for additional local testing.

With the green light from FEMA, we will distribute the remaining 1,400 test kits throughout our community. With this resource now available, we updated our distribution model to meet the current need in our county to respond to COVID-19.

Providing resources where people and organizations need them most.

Beginning today, we will distribute tests throughout Pierce County.

Our goal is to use the strong systems that exist in our community and provide tests where the people need them most. This approach:

  • Allows for faster specimen processing and result reporting.
  • Conserves limited Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) we would need to conduct tests at a mass testing location.
  • Allows public health and our healthcare partners to offer more accurate guidance and treatment.     

Our testing priorities include: 

  • Long-term care facilities, not affiliated with a large healthcare system, that have a COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Rural parts of our county.
  • Populations with limited access to healthcare.
  • People who are part of our essential workforce who don’t have other testing options.  

We plan to distribute the 1,400 test kits to our partners including: 

  • Long-term care facilities with outbreaks – Our older adults living in congregate are one of our highest risk groups of severe health outcomes from COVID-19.
  • First responders – Through existing agreements with healthcare testing sites.
  • Clinics and testing sites that provide healthcare in rural locations – For people who may have challenges accessing healthcare.
  • Community Health Care clinics – Federally qualified health centers, including SeaMar and Community Health Care, will help us get tests to some of the people who need them most, including people living homeless.
  • Puyallup Tribe – For the healthcare of tribal members.   

Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department appreciates FEMA’s support of more testing in our community. With this valuable testing resource, our healthcare and community partners will help us understand the level of disease that may be occurring among some of our highest risk populations—so we can put into place proper measures to stop further spread.  

Learn more at 

  1. Updated: 04/03/2020
Assistant Division Director of Communicable Disease Stephanie Dunkel

by Stephanie Dunkel

Stephanie helps lead our work to keep your family safe from communicable diseases.


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