Nevada planning to distribute 600,000 at-home COVID-19 tests
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nevada expects to receive almost 600,000 rapid COVID-19 tests from the federal government to give to residents so they can find out at home if they have the coronavirus instead of crowding hospital emergency rooms amid the rapid spread of the omicron variant, Gov. Steve Sisolak said Thursday.
“We have no intention of more additional mitigation measures moving forward,” the governor, a Democrat, told reporters as he outlined efforts by state health and emergency management officials to break a wave that has nearly 35% of people tested for the coronavirus in the Las Vegas area showing positive results.
Sisolak called testing, vaccinations and mask-wearing indoors important tools in fighting the spread of the coronavirus.
He acknowledged that resources that had been directed toward public contact-tracing have been diverted to handling a crush of new cases.
Hospitals and clinics statewide have struggled to deal with staffing shortages caused by workers out sick, while soaring demand for COVID-19 tests has led to people waiting for hours in lines at drive-thru test centers.
“If you’re feeling sick, if you think you’ve got symptoms, go get a test. Get in the line and wait,” Sisolak said. “But once we have these tests, it’ll relieve the lines at some of the testing sites.”
In Nevada, the omicron variant now accounts for about 90% of newly reported coronavirus cases, according to the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory.
Health officials say the omicron variant spreads more easily than other coronavirus variants, and more easily infects those who have been vaccinated or were sickened by prior versions of the virus. But early studies show omicron is less likely to cause severe illness than the delta variant, and vaccination and a booster offer strong protection from serious illness, hospitalization and death.
Sisolak and Julia Peek, deputy state health administrator, said they expect the state’s order of about 588,000 Flexflow COVID-19 home tests to arrive in Nevada by the end of the month. The cost, about $5 million, will come from federal coronavirus relief funds.
About 90 health districts, libraries, fire departments and other community organizations will distribute the tests, the governor said. He said he expected demand to be high and officials intend to obtain more tests when they can.
Peek said the state aims to provide resources that people need “to keep yourself and your family healthy, your kids in school, hospital beds open and our economy growing.”
The results of tests taken at home won’t become part of the state’s coronavirus case reporting program, but Peek called the tests a “vital tool.”
“We remind those with a positive result to self-isolate to limit the spread among their family members, coworkers and friends,” she said. “They should also inform their own close contacts of the exposure.”