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HIGHLIGHTS | Ensuring equity during COVID-19

  • Mobile testing vans offer free COVID-19 tests to underserved communities and homeless populations.
  • UW Medicine’s Virology Lab provides testing for city of Seattle COVID-19 sites.
  • As part of a home testing program, UW Medicine reaches those who can’t access traditional healthcare.


COVID-19 has impacted all of our lives, but increasing evidence shows that it has disproportionately affected racial and ethnic minority groups, as well as those experiencing homelessness and living in underserved communities.

To help confront these inequities, UW Medicine has launched multiple testing and response efforts to ensure a more equitable approach to curbing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Free mobile testing for underserved communities

UW Medicine’s mobile screening and testing initiative aims to reach patients in South King County, where there are higher rates of COVID-19 and where socioeconomic inequities may be a barrier to accessing healthcare.

“We have one mobile van that is going to communities that have much higher rates of COVID-19, specifically Black, Latino, Pacific Islander and limited-English-proficiency communities,” explains Lisa Brandenburg, president of UW Medicine hospitals and clinics. “We also have a second van focused on the homeless population.”

No appointment is required, and patients can walk up or drive up to the mobile van to receive a free screening and, if deemed necessary, a free COVID-19 nasal swab test.

  • South Seattle College: Fridays, 9:30 am to 3 pm
  • Auburn City Adventist Church: Tuesdays, 9 am to 3 pm
  • Kent Public Health Center: Thursdays, 10 am to 3 pm

UW Medicine is currently working with community groups in South King County to identify other sites to serve the populations there who continue to see a disproportionate burden of disease.

Drive-up testing in Seattle

In partnership with the city of Seattle and Public Health — Seattle & King County, UW Medicine is providing the laboratory technology to test for COVID-19 at drive-up testing sites at two locations: one in SoDo and one on Aurora in North Seattle.

Patients of all ages can make a reservation online and then drive-up to receive a COVID-19 test. Patients who do not have insurance are still able to receive a test for free. To ensure those who have limited English proficiency are also able to access testing, language interpretation services are available at no cost.

  • SoDo: 3820 Sixth Ave S., Monday through Saturday, 9:30 am to 5:30 pm
  • Aurora: 12040 Aurora Ave N., 9:30 am to 5:30 pm

Home swab-and-send testing

UW Medicine is also one of the organizations collaborating on the Greater Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network (SCAN), along with the Brotman Baty Institute, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle Children’s, the Institute for Disease Modeling and Public Health — Seattle & King County.

Anyone living in King County can sign up to receive a free at-home swab kit to test for COVID-19.

SCAN researchers are purposefully distributing their kits throughout the region to track how the virus may be spreading in the county and to also reach patients in underserved communities. This at-home testing approach allows patients who have issues accessing healthcare through traditional routes to receive testing for COVID-19.

“A lot of the traditional surveillance systems in place rely on people coming into the hospital or clinic when they’re sick,” explains Helen Chu, MD, an assistant professor of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at UW School of Medicine and one of SCAN’s lead researchers. “Our swab-and-send home kit increases the possibility of you being able to identify people early in their illness and to identify people who may not necessarily come in for care.”