Federal government ending free COVID tests

Orders being suspended Friday, Sept. 2.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

The federal government will suspend its free COVID-19 test orders on Friday, citing a lack of funding.

The Biden administration launched its mail order program in January, offering homes in the U.S. free tests during three different rounds of orders. According to the federal government’s testing website at covid.gov/tests, those orders will be stopped on Friday as “Congress hasn’t provided additional funding to replenish the nation’s stockpile of tests.”

There is still time to order tests before Friday’s deadline, either by visiting covid.gov or calling 1-800-232-0233.

“If you haven’t gotten your allotment, go ahead and do that,” said Nate Smith, communications coordinator for the Clark County Combined Health District.

The Biden Administration has released announcements calling for additional funding from Congress to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. In April, the White House said there was an “urgent need” for more funding from Congress. The White House’s statement there was the possibility of fewer vaccines, treatments, and tests for Americans if the federal government did not receive more funding.

In regard to tests, the Biden administration said it could not sustain domestic testing manufacturing capacity and it expects to be unprepared for another surge in testing demands. In June, the White House COVID-19 Response team said it would be reallocating funds for testing to go toward vaccines.

The Clark County Combined Health District has been providing at-home tests to local residents no charge, and those who need a test can call the department at (937) 390-5600 to arrange a pickup.

“We’re tried to meet that need however we can,” Smith said, adding that they are continuing to partner with the Ohio Department of Health on getting test kits for local individuals.

The Clark County Combined Health District’s website also includes resources about where residents can schedule a PCR test at a local pharmacy or health center at ccchd.com/covid-19-tests/.

Health officials say it is a possibility that local health departments may see an increased demand for COVID tests following the federal government ending its mail order program, but there was no way for them to tell how many local residents were utilizing the federal government’s program.

Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County is providing a limited number of test kits to the Dayton Metro Library to be given out to local residents. For more information, visit www.daytonmetrolibrary.org/dml-covid.

Other low or no-cost testing resources are available through retailers, pharmacies, and health centers. Visit the Ohio Department of Health’s website at coronavirus.ohio.gov to find testing locations.

“They’re readily available at most retail locations,” said Dan Suffoletto, public information manager for Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County, about at-home COVID tests. “There’s no indication that there’s any shortage of test kits.”

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services also provides additional information on getting reimbursements for over-the-counter COVID tests through individuals’ health plans. Insurance companies are also required to reimburse individuals at a rate of up to $12 per test, according to CMS.

Ohioans are currently testing positive for COVID-19 at a rate between 15-19.9%, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Much of the Dayton and Springfield area remains at a high level of COVID-19 transmission, including Montgomery, Greene, Clark, Champaign, Darke, and Butler counties. According to the CDC, Warren, Preble, and Miami counties are at a medium level of transmission.

Health officials are also recommending people trust COVID tests when they come up positive instead of trying to find more tests to confirm those results.

“We don’t see many false positives,” Smith said. “If you get that positive test, you can trust it.” He recommended individuals begin their five-day isolation period when they get a positive COVID test result, starting either from when the positive test took place or from when symptoms began.

“There’s no need to take two, three tests to confirm your positive result,” Smith said.

How to get a test

By Friday, visit online at covid.gov or call 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 1-888-720-7489) or home tests can be purchased at local pharmacies.

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