Free at-home COVID-19 test kits are available to Spokane County residents through a new program from the National Institutes of Health.
The rapid, at-home antigen tests are self-administered, and they can be used for when you have symptoms, before a gathering like Thanksgiving or if you have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for the virus.
Spokane County, along with the Northeast Tri-County region, Okanogan County, the Tri-Cities area and Adams County are all included in the free testing program due to high COVID-19 transmission in these areas.
“These tests are being made available to us because of our higher rates of transmission in our county,” said Kira Lewis, a public health nurse at the Spokane Regional Health District. “The timing is really convenient, and I hope a lot of people capitalize on access to these tests before gathering with family members outside of their household.”
Once you order the tests, you can expect to receive them in about a week’s time, Lewis said. The health district is not distributing the kits, federal partners are, so the district did not have estimates on how many kits are available.
To get at-home materials, enter your ZIP code online at sayyescovidhometest.org. The site was experiencing high demand as of Wednesday night.
Locally, COVID activity and hospitalizations remain consistent and flat. Locally and statewide, COVID rates are similar to where the state was exactly a year ago going into the winter, meaning quite high.
This has some health officials cautious about what’s ahead, especially as case counts begin to edge up again in some Mountain West states and along the East Coast as well as in Europe.
“We are concerned that if we don’t continue to get people vaccinated that this trend going in the right direction (will reverse),” State Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah told reporters Wednesday. “What we do not want to see is this leads to an uptick into a sixth wave.”
State leaders encouraged everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated, including people who haven’t received a single dose as well as those eligible for their booster doses, especially ahead of family holiday gatherings. The Department of Health is still following the booster guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Other states have authorized boosters for all adults, but Washington state will not be following in the footsteps of California and New York City for now, Shah said.
Booster guidance could change soon, however, after the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices meets this Friday. The Food and Drug Administration is expected to authorize boosters in anticipation of this meeting as well, the Associated Press reported.
So far, more than 820,000 Washington residents have received a third or booster dose.
“We do think in the next couple days there will be updated guidance from our partners,” Shah said.
State health officials said mixing and matching booster doses is allowed, and that vaccine providers have been made aware of this rule; however some vaccine locations may only have one type or brand of booster dose.
Shah encouraged Washington residents to look closely and consult with their health care provider about their eligibility for a booster dose of the mRNA vaccines six months after being fully vaccinated. Currently people with underlying health conditions, as defined by the CDC, ranging from cancer and heart conditions to depression and asthma are all eligible for a booster dose.
If you received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine more than two months ago, you are eligible for a booster, regardless of underlying health condition.
Here’s a look at local numbers
The Spokane Regional Health District reported 207 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday and 18 additional deaths.
There have been 1,062 deaths due to COVID-19 in Spokane County residents.
There are 110 patients hospitalized with the virus in Spokane hospitals.
The Panhandle Health District reported 163 new COVID-19 cases and no additional deaths.
There are still 1,160 backlogged cases at the Panhandle Health District.
There are 84 Panhandle residents hospitalized with the virus.
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