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National boost for at-home COVID testing could eliminate barriers in rural areas

Home Tests Virus Outbreak
Posted at 6:40 PM, Dec 02, 2021

ADAMS COUNTY, Ohio — Biden administration plans to boost free at-home COVID-19 test kit supplies could bring assistance to places like Adams County.

The public health department sees constant demand for tests.

People grabbed boxes three at a time Thursday afternoon, some even leaving with seven. Resident Jody Waldron said he is wary of the alternative: going to regional medical centers or urgent care.

"You have to wait three or four hours to take the test then wait two or three days to get your test results back," Waldron said.

Waldron said his family had no time for even a doctor visit. Their family is worried by his stepdaughter's COVID symptoms following their Thanksgiving gathering.

"We [have] five kids," Waldron said. "All the kids are in school and stuff, so I just want to make sure everybody gets tested and see who has what so we can do what we can to keep from spreading it."

The free kits from the health department are antigen tests capable of producing results in minutes. Each also includes instructions for optional telehealth video sessions for verification.

Shipments from the Ohio Department of Health stacked in a back room hardly last long. Health Commissioner Dr. William Hablitzel sees hundreds, sometimes more than 1,000, people grab tests each week.

With food and other costs rising, free kits are hot commodities, Hablitzel said.

"We have a lot of barriers out in a rural area from transportation and cost is one of them," Hablitzel said. "So, if we can eliminate that barrier we can get more testing capacity out to the community."

Adams County has one of Ohio's lowest vaccination rates, making testing a crucial priority.

Despite handing out 3.8 million free test kits statewide, the Ohio Department of Health wants better access for rural and underserved communities.

"We don't want there to be a barrier," ODH Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said.

At the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, President Joe Biden revealed plans to reimburse 150 million Americans for at-home tests bought through insurers this winter.

"We're going to make free at-home tests more available Americans than ever before," he said.

The president said he also expects another 15 million tests to be delivered to community health centers and rural clinics.

"A lot of people will go get tested at the doctor and then wait for a test," Waldron said. "They might not be showing severe symptoms but they're still out running around, talking to this person, talking to that person passing it around. It's good to know your status to keep everybody around you safe."

Just one of Waldron's children tested positive so far, though the concern of a new variant potentially emerging gives him no time to relax.

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