Local health departments make plans to use at-home COVID tests from Ohio

Tests give results in 15 minutes
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Posted at 9:36 PM, Jan 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-25 21:56:21-05

CINCINNATI — Many around the Tri-state and the country have waited in long lines for a COVID-19 test, then waited even longer for the results. Now that Ohio has accepted 2 million rapid COVID-19 test kits, that wait could be drastically reduced.

Health departments in Hamilton County and Cincinnati already have received 2,000 kits each from the state's allocation. The at-home test kits, made by Abbott, give results in about 15 minutes. A spokesman for the Hamilton County Health Department told WCPO it gave its allocation of test kits to the Hamilton County Educational Service Center. The district supports several educational entities including Early Childhood Services and Head Start.

“I think we did receive about 2,000 last week that we’re going to process in our inventory and then work with a couple entities to say okay now we have them, are you ready to receive them," said Dr. Melba Moore, health commissioner for the Cincinnati Health Department.

Moore said the increase in testing is part of a complete strategy to combat COVID-19. Social distancing and vaccines are other necessary elements.

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“We have long needed a comprehensive testing strategy. And a strategy that makes sure there are multiple access points,” said Dr. Patrice Harris, chief executive officer of eMed, the Miami-based company that partnered with the state of Ohio to provide the rapid tests.

“Folks who are taking these tests will have that information," said Dr. Harris, a former president of the American Medical Association. "They will know if they are positive or negative, and then make decisions about their healthcare.”

“And there’s pros and cons with the rapid test, but it’s an opportunity to make it readily available,” Moore said.

She expects the Cincinnati Health Department will ensure the tests are made available to schools, federally qualified health centers and possibly, agencies with connections to underserved communities. One of the goals of the partnership between Ohio and eMed also is to make the tests available to those with challenges with mobility or other obstacles.

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“People who find themselves more at risk, more to being exposed, it’s an excellent tool so they know their status before they make a move,” said Dr. Moore.

Meanwhile, Harris said there is also the benefit of having someone walk you through collecting the sample and conducting the test. Tester will use a mobile app and the eMed website to complete the process.

“There is a live person that will come on, and walk you to open the box, lay the card flat, drops, nasal swab, so it is a live, virtually guided session,” Dr. Harris said.

The idea is to make sure people feel comfortable that they are correctly carrying out the steps of the test. Harris said it's about five swirls around each nostril. But, for those who think they may have COVID-19, it can be a scary.

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“There’s certainly, in all seriousness, a lot of worry and anxiety," said Harris. "I mean this is a life-or-death situation and, in some cases, and certainly, we want to be able to add confidence.”

Ohio is the first state to work with eMed on rolling out the rapid tests, according to Harris. They will also share data on their findings.

“We will through our reporting system, which is a part of our testing platform, we will be sending the data up to local and state health departments. And, also to the CDC,” Harris said.

There is no cost to get the tests distributed by the local health departments. The tests are also offered for purchase on the eMed website for $25.