Juneau hopes to reduce wait time for COVID-19 test results for travelers coming through its airport

City fire department staff check COVID-19 testing paperwork for people who arrived in town on a flight from Seattle on August 14, 2020, in Juneau, Alaska. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/KTOO)

Starting Tuesday, COVID-19 tests taken at Juneau’s airport will be processed at a private lab rather than the state’s lab.

The samples will still be taken at the airport using a non-invasive nasal swab, but they will go to a commercial lab in Southern California, according to a press release from the City and Borough of Juneau. The hope is that the switch will help lessen the burden of tests coming into the state lab in Fairbanks, reduce costs for the city and reduce the wait time for results.

Results have been taking four to five days on average to get back from the state lab. Results from the new lab are expected to take two to four days.

Travelers arriving at the Juneau International Airport from out of state still need proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of arriving or to take a test at the airport and quarantine until they get results back. Testing is free for Alaska residents or $250 for nonresidents.

A free second test 5-14 days after arrival for residents and nonresidents is optional.

Alaska’s health mandate that lays out the travel restrictions was revised in mid-October. It requires travelers to the state to follow strict social distancing guidelines while waiting for their test results. This includes not entering public buildings or attending group activities or gatherings.