OLYMPIA — The state Department of Health will continue to provide free COVID-19 home test kits to residents at least through the end of 2022, despite the end of federal financial support for testing programs, officials announced this week.
The federal government announced in August that it would not longer offer free at-home COVID-19 tests.
Washington residents can order up to 10 free at-home test kits per month through the “Say Yes! COVID Test” program.
To order, visit sayyescovidhometest.org. The kits are delivered to the requester’s home or work address, free of charge.
“With upper respiratory season at a high peak, at-home tests offer a way for individuals to check their COVID status without needing to access the healthcare system,” the Department of Health (DOH) said in a press release.
COVID -19 remains active on the North Olympic Peninsula, where three men in their 70s have died of the disease this month.
All three had been vaccinated but had not received the latest booster and had underlying health conditions, according to Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties.
The most dominant variant is still omicron and its sub-variants B.A.4 and B.A.5, which account for about 67 percent of the current circulating strains, Berry said earlier this week.
However, she added that there are two new sub-variants on the horizon, B.Q.1 and B.Q.1.1, that are more successful at getting around previous infection and vaccination than previous variants, she said.
The antigen tests take 15 minutes to complete. Users can follow up with tests from a medical provider or test site to verify results, the state . Those testing positive can report their test result to Washington’s COVID-19 hotline at 1–800–525–0127.
Testing when feeling ill or before joining a gathering is a key way to prevent the spread of COVID-19, along with staying current on vaccines, wearing a well-fitted mask in crowded or poorly ventilated indoor settings, frequent handwashing, and staying home when sick, DOH said.
Also people can activate WA notify on their phones, which allows receiving or sending anonymous notification if the user has come in contact with someone who tested positive.
These precautions are especially important now because hospitals and emergency rooms are operating at a higher than usual capacity due to a surge in respiratory viruses.
Added to COVID-19 on the Peninsula, influenza and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) have taken hold, health officials said.
DOH first started the program in January 2022, in a partnership with the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Care Evolution, Amazon, and other community partners. Since then, DOH has received over 2.5 million orders, distributing 12.5 million test kits in Washington.
For more information, go to the state DOH website at https://doh.wa.gov/emergencies/covid-19.