After funds for COVID-19 testing in Anchorage began to run short, prompting a reduction in hours and a shift in guidance at various sites, the mayor’s administration requested more money Tuesday to bring levels back up to normal.
A spokesman for Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson said in an email Tuesday that a $2.65 million request would be submitted to the Anchorage Assembly as an emergency ordinance.
The funding would fill a gap that resulted from a dramatic rise in COVID-19 testing since midsummer, Anchorage Health Department director Joe Gerace said recently. Anchorage’s daily case counts reached new pandemic highs in the current surge, and more cases have been identified as more people have sought testing with widespread virus transmission occurring.
Gerace said funding for virus testing wouldn’t last through the end of October if testing levels remained exceptionally high, which is why the city now emphasizes that its contracted sites run by Visit Healthcare are intended for use “only people with COVID-19 symptoms or close contacts of a COVID-19 case.” Other testing locations remain available to the public, and a city health department spokesperson said that people seeking testing who don’t meet those criteria won’t be turned away.
Testing sites over the weekend and Monday in Anchorage saw long lines, including at the popular Loussac Library drive-thru site, which had more than a dozen cars in line an hour before it opened Monday.
Starting last Friday, the city cut 108 hours per week from the testing schedule at its sites, which include the Loussac Library, Changepoint Church and the Muldoon Community Assembly. That step was also necessary to help sustain testing through the rest of the month, Gerace said.
The additional funding request should restore testing to previous levels through the end of November, according to Bronson spokesman Corey Allen Young. It has support from the Assembly, he said.
Anchorage Assembly members voted to take up the funding request at their meeting Tuesday night but had not yet considered it as of 8 p.m.