COVID-19 testing is underway in Dillingham

May 22, 2020

After Dillingham’s first positive case of the disease was announced May 16, Capstone Clinic opened to everyone in the community.

The testing center is located next to the harbor office, in the Animal Control Building.
Credit KDLG/Tyler Thompson

COVID-19 testing has started in Dillingham. The state has tasked Capstone Clinic with testing the fishing fleet and processors coming in for the season. 

After Dillingham’s first positive case of the disease was announced May 16. Capstone Clinic Supervisor Kerry said they opened to everyone in the community, with help from the Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation. 

“They came in and supplied us with 120 sets of swabs and viral transport media to send the samples back to anchorage to be tested in the state lab,” he said.

People will proceed the table here with a drivers license or form of identification. The process works right to left. Capstone fills out the vital information, collects a temperature then proceeds with the nasal swab.
Credit KDLG/Tyler Thompson

Perry is part of a five- person crew of medical professionals working at the clinic. He said they’ve received an additional 600 testing kits this week from the state.

“We’re keeping a running inventory of those, as we start to deplete we’ll let the folks at the state office know we’re getting low," Perry said. "We’re also talking to the area processors in the city, to determine if we should expect to see a spike in workers.”

One of those processors is Peter Pan Seafoods. The clinic tested over 70 of Peter Pan’s employees on Wednesday morning. The processor shuttled them to the harbor in vans. It was the first busy day for the clinic, and most of those workers were tested within two hours.

Miles Sturm is a safety supervisor for Peter Pan. He’s worked in Bristol Bay for 16 years. He said getting tested was easy.

“The longest part was just waiting in line," Sturm said. "The actual process was very simple and pretty quick. All I needed was my ID. They took information from that, administered the test and it was all done in a matter of minutes.”

The clinic is right next to the harbor office. Orange traffic cones are placed six feet apart for people to safely

Cones are placed six-feet apart to ensure social distancing.
Credit KDLG/Tyler Thompson

wait in line. Once the clinic has gathered the patient’s information, a thermal thermometer is used to take temperatures, followed by a nasal swab. Sturm said that part of the test was a little unpleasant, but not painful.

“I think basically what surprised me was the distance they had to go inside, sort of a lack of a better way to put it," he said. "I’m not dreading having to go back and do a second one.”

After completing his test, Sturm was given a blue Tyvek wristband, similar to one given to patients in a hospital. The color of the wristband does not determine what stage of quarantine that person is in. It only indicates that the person was tested.

The state lab is confirming tests within 48 hours. Perry, the Capstone clinic supervisor, said the state has supplied the clinic with a Cepheid machine. The machines can confirm cases of COVID-19 within 45 minutes.

“The person that works for that vendor has to come out and calibrate it," he said. "Once they get that done, we can process the test here on site at that point.”

Community members line up for testing on Saturday, after Dillingham confirmed its first case of COVID-19.
Credit KDLG/Sam Gardner

Testing will be available seven days a week and is free for everyone. The clinic could also set up a second site for testing at the small boat harbor around Squaw Creek. Dillingham is requiring a mandatory second test to leave quarantine.

Contact the author at tyler@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200