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From short term rentals to coronavirus, how Roy Street Commons briefly became Capitol Hill’s only ‘COVID-19 Test Center’ — UPDATE: Back open

(Image: CHS)

12 Ave’s Roy Street Commons stands out among Capitol Hill apartment buildings as the only building of its size on the Hill allowed to be fully dedicated to short-term rentals;. In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, the building’s owners have again proven unusually innovative.

As the outbreak spread and rental business dried up, Roy Street became 12th Ave’s only COVID-19 Test Center.

Dr. Eric Friedland, an emergency medicine physician at Overlake Medical Center, opened the Covid Test Center out of the Roy Street Commons building that he and his wife own.

“I work in a hospital, so I don’t have a clinic to do this. I had an empty building and I thought ‘this is a reasonable goal,’ Friedland said. “A lot of people couldn’t get tested in March when the epidemic was really here so they want to know if they have antibodies or if they don’t. That was my whole goal, to try and provide the ability for people who didn’t have access to PCR testing who were sick in March to be able to figure out if they had the virus or not.”


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(Image: CHS)

The Covid Test Center is no longer open and all that remains on its website is a statement that reads: “With rapidly evolving understanding of science around the COVID epidemic we are suspending testing and refer you to the King County testing sites.” All the signage outside the building has since been removed — except for a faint outline on the window reading “Covid Test Center.”

UPDATE 8:00 AM: It appears the test center is back in action:

We are now testing both PCR NASAL SWAB and COVID-19 antibody tests 1gG and IgM. Our mission is to provide accurate, affordable testing options and education. You do not need symptoms. Monday through Friday 8AM-1130AM.

Cost is $99, the updated site reads.

KUOW first reported on the unusual testing site in early June, calling it a “makeshift medical facility” and pointing out that the site was advertising their antibody tests as FDA-approved when no COVID-19 antibody tests are FDA-approved at this time.

According to its website, the COVID Test Center offered antibody testing to determine immunity to COVID-19 as well as PCR testing to determine active COVID-19 infection.

Until recent improved testing, antibody analysis for COVID-19 had produced a high rate of false positives and false negatives. Officials say it remains unclear if the presence of antibodies brings immunity to COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website states that researchers “currently don’t have enough information yet to say whether someone will definitely be immune and protected from reinfection if they have antibodies to the virus.” The CDC does not recommend that anyone change behaviors or loosen social-distancing because of positive COVID-19 antibody tests.

Meanwhile, a Spanish study including researchers from Harvard and MIT has casted further doubt on “herd immunity strategies after finding only 5% of the Spanish population was carrying antibodies for COVID-19 despite the widespread outbreak in the country.”

Demand for the tests has opened the door to fraud. The FBI issued a warning this week about fake antibody tests, saying scammers are looking to steal private information.

King County continues to see a summer acceleration in the spread of the virus. With positive cases continuing to increase, so far, the county is not yet seeing a corresponding surge in hospitalizations and deaths that followed March’s surge. Still, positive cases have climbed around 40% since June 1st across the county and a whopping 58% in the three ZIP codes making up Capitol Hill and the Central District with now more than 300 positive cases and seven deaths recorded here since the outbreak’s start. An outbreak in the University of Washington’s fraternity and sorority housing could explain some of the recent spike here as younger people are now making up a larger percentage of new cases.

This week, meanwhile, begins a statewide mandate for businesses to require customers to wear face coverings — except when eating and drinking — as the spread of the virus continues in Washington and across the country. Other industries around the Hill are adjusting — and reopening. CHS visited with a few examples from the neighborhood’s hair salons last week.

The City of Seattle has increased free resting resources in the city and officials are now encouraging people to get tested even at the slightest onset of possible symptoms.

Despite the continued spread of the virus, the 12th Ave testing clinic is no more. CHS asked Dr. Friedland about his decision to stop offering testing services.

“I think a lot of the people that needed antibody testing no longer need it because we went through all the people that couldn’t get PCR testing, and the real need is PCR testing,” he said. “I’m going to take a little breather and see how I can add value and help people. Right now I’m just causing a lot of stress for my family and it’s just not worth it.”


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7 thoughts on “From short term rentals to coronavirus, how Roy Street Commons briefly became Capitol Hill’s only ‘COVID-19 Test Center’ — UPDATE: Back open

  1. So if they were offering antibody tests that weren’t FDA approved, does this mean it was a legit outlet for tests? I looked at them, and their site, and they seemed a bit dodgy to me. I also wondered how those doing short term rentals staying at the bldg felt to arrive at the bldg and see all the “Covid-testing site” signs.

    • They were offering FDA “authorized” tests rather than FDA “approved” tests. The FDA authorized these Covid tests to be offered with little oversight in the beginning because most labs, both small and large, were rushing to get a new test to market, and no test would be available quickly if all were required to go through the approval process.

  2. He I a physician doing these dubious tests in an Airbnb hotel ? It’s all too much. Doesn’t he make enough $$ at Overlake – indeed how does he have time for all of this ? If he had just rented the building to normal people at market rates it would have surely been a considerable income stream, at Airbnb rates ($60-100 night) all the money must be going some place….

  3. This is not about, as Dr. Friedland says, “helping people.” It’s about making money. Free testing is widely available now at quite a few places.

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