On their way in, Anne Moen sees mostly worry.

But as people leave Kitsap County’s drive-through COVID-19 testing sites, they show Moen and her fellow workers a different look.

“There’s a lot of relief, and gratitude,” said Moen, a member of the Kitsap Public Health District (KPHD) team that has spearheaded drive-through testing opportunities at several sites around Kitsap County since the end of October. “I’ve been in public health for 19 and a half years, and I’ve never heard so many ‘thank yous.’”

KPHD’s team staffs the testing sites along with volunteers from the county’s Department of Emergency Management and Emergency Operations Center and – until the recent end of the fall academic quarter – first-year nursing students from Olympic College (OC).

Volunteer Penny Garner provides a COVID-19 test at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds

For those working behind the scenes, the events are more than just five or six hours of actual testing. There’s set-up at the beginning and tear-down at the end of each day, and the collected specimens must be sent to a lab for evaluation.

“I enjoy it, but it is very intense,” said Penny Garner, who drives to testing sites from her Seabeck home three times a week, and is onsite from beginning to end. “I would do more if they did them more often.”

Garner was volunteering with the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) as part of an Emergency Operations Center response at a local skilled nursing facility. When the first testing site opened, she was summoned along with other CERT volunteers to manage traffic. The team soon asked if she’d like to use her healthcare training as a medical volunteer, and Garner traded in her baton for a testing kit.

Garner said her volunteer experience has helped her feel like she’s doing something positive to slow the spread of COVID-19 – and, at the same time, get her back to her husband’s side.

“I haven’t seen him since March,” she said. “If I can help even one person, it might get me back to my husband faster.”

OC’s nursing students might not have expected such a hands-on experience from their first quarter in the program, said Dr. Alecia Nye, associate dean for OC’s College of Nursing. But they came to relish it.

COVID-19 drive-through testing located at the Fairgrounds.

“Some of them might’ve felt some trepidation at the beginning,” said Nye. “But we assured them we were following all the Centers for Disease Control guidelines and have all the personal protective equipment. And once they got started, they loved it.”

Since the testing sites opened, about 3,000 tests have been administered and more than 200 positive cases identified. View detailed data on COVID-19 test results throughout Kitsap County at kcowa.us/covid19. Visit kcowa.us/covidtesting to find a test site near you.

Interested in volunteer opportunities? Register at https://bit.ly/KCEmergencyWorker.

Story by Michael Moore, Kitsap Public Health District