At-home COVID tests start to arrive in Oregon, Washington

Coronavirus

Test kits trickle in amid surge from omicron variant

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Millions of COVID-19 home test kits are coming to the Pacific Northwest over the next week, and hundreds of thousands have already arrived in Oregon, the state health authority told KOIN 6 News.

Last week, the state placed an order for 12 million COVID-19 home test kits. As of Wednesday, the Oregon Health Authority received about 200,000 of those test kits, with hundreds of thousands more scheduled to arrive before the end of January.

These kits, which include two rapid tests per kit, are bound for frontline healthcare workers and K-12 schools, OHA said.

The tests are desperately needed as the omicron variant continues to break records of daily new COVID-19 cases in Oregon. Even though it is less severe than its precursor, the delta variant, it is already causing patients to overwhelm hospitals, officials said.

During a press conference held virtually Wednesday afternoon, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee also announced new details on testing, promising Washingtonians they will be able to order the tests online from home.

“In the past week, we’ve seen about a 146% increase in our numbers of infections,” Inslee said. “We know why this is — omicron is very contagious, much more contagious than the delta variant, and it is rapidly overtaking the delta variant already in infections in the state of Washington, as well as nationally.”

Inslee announced that the state’s health department expects to receive 5.5 million more rapid COVID tests for Washingtonians in allotments over the next week. The state currently has on hand about 800,000 tests, he said.

Washingtonians will be able to order tests for delivery to their home through a web portal by mid-January, he said. This portal would be in addition to any similar federal program. According to the governor, 3.5 million of Washington’s incoming tests will be reserved for on-demand orders.

Schools can expect about a million of the incoming tests in addition to their current supply, Inslee said. Local health organizations across Washington can also expect an additional one million tests for community distribution.

To help combat the surge in cases, the state plans to distribute about 10 million masks to schools, community centers and clinics across Washington.

“We want to make sure keeping the schools open remains a paramount obligation here,” Inslee said. “It is our firm and stalwart expectation that we will keep our schools open. We believe we have the tools available to provide safety to our students.”

Washington health leaders recently said in-school COVID testing programs will ramp up but they’re deeply concerned about what could lie ahead. Most children between 5-11 are not fully vaccinated in either state.

The governor asked Washingtonians to seek non-urgent care from their primary care doctors instead of visiting hospitals, as the state’s medical facilities are being overwhelmed by the surge in cases.

“If you feel like your life is in jeopardy, of course, go to the emergency room,” said Lacy Fehrenbach of the Washington State Department of Health. “Please don’t go to an ER to get a COVID test.”

Inslee said he felt now is the time to return to increased safety protocols, such as wearing masks and avoiding large gatherings. He reiterated a call for those who have not been vaccinated to do so, and for those who are eligible to receive their boosters.

More than a million Oregonians are unvaccinated and most of those who are vaccinated have not gotten a booster yet.

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