Marion County offers free at-home COVID-19 rapid testing kits for targeted areas

Marion County residents who live in 23 targeted ZIP codes with high rates of COVID-19 and lower-than-average rates of vaccination can get free, rapid, at-home testing kits that health officials hope will reduce the spread of the deadly virus.

The kits allow people to self-administer tests at home and see the results in a few minutes, the Marion County Department of Public Health announced on Monday.

The move comes a few weeks after the White House said it would buy $1 billion worth of the at-home coronavirus tests to quadruple the number of tests available to Americans by December.

The Biden administration said the purchase, along with other moves, could increase the number of at-home tests to 200 million per month.

Demand for the tests had grown so quickly that they had disappeared from pharmacy shelves in many parts of the United States in recent months.

Marion County officials said the rapid, self-administered tests have the potential to disrupt the spread of COVID-19 that occurs when people are infected, but don’t yet have symptoms. Testing twice a week offers the best chance of identifying COVID-19 infection and isolating early, the health department said.

“Anyone can just swab the front of their nose and perform this test in the privacy of their home to see results within 10 minutes and make more informed choices about their day,” said Dr. Virginia Caine, director and chief medical officer of the Marion County Public Health Department.

The COVID-19 tests are authorized for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, provided free of charge, and the entire testing process can be managed privately at home.

The target ZIP codes in Marion County are 46222, 46201, 46218, 46208, 46224, 46235, 46202, 46241, 46203, 46226, 46204, 46205, 46227, 46221, 46219, 46225, 46260, 46229, 46254, 46107, 46216, 46240, and 46268. These ZIP codes were identified based on high rates of COVID-19, lower than average rates of vaccination, and concentration of essential workers.

Each test package contains eight tests for home testing twice a week for four weeks for an individual. Individuals who have not yet received the COVID-19 vaccine or who have the highest risk of exposure to COVID-19, such as people working or going to school outside the home, are ideal candidates for participation, the county said, but anyone over the age of 2 is eligible to participate.

Marion County residents can log on to COVIDhometestindy.org to order test kits for doorstep delivery. Test kits will also be available for pick up locally at the following locations:

  • 6042 E. 21st St.
  • 2868 Pennsylvania St.
  • 6940 N. Michigan Road
  • 3838 N. Rural St.

The U.S. has lagged behind several European and Asian countries in testing for much of the pandemic, with many Americans reporting in recent months that they have struggled to get testing appointments or purchase at-home tests, the Washington Post reported.

“These tests are cheap to make—and there’s a lot of demand for it out there,” said Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. “The reason the market hasn’t worked is because the FDA has made it very difficult for these tests to get out into the marketplace.”

FDA officials have said they are concerned that the rapid antigen tests, which deliver a result within minutes, are less accurate than the slower PCR tests that need to be evaluated in a laboratory and can take days to produce results.

The maker of the tests, Quidel, is the same company that made the first rapid flu tests used by doctors’ offices in the United States

Experts had clamored for the government to invest in widespread availability of rapid tests, saying that improved detection of coronavirus outbreaks could have tamped down the virus’s spread, particularly in the early months of the pandemic.

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