ELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times
The need for access to COVID-19 tests has been a hot topic in recent weeks and earlier this week, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) made an announcement about just that.
“During the past month, the highly infectious and transmittable Omicron variant of COVID-19 has significantly increased case rates and demand for testing in the United States and Kansas. KDHE continues monitoring the spread and impact of Omicron since the first case was confirmed in Kansas in mid-December 2021,” a release from the KDHE noted. “As of Jan. 16, 2022, the daily case rate has been more than 7,800 daily COVID-19 cases, that is a significant increase from about 1,200 cases per day in early December 2021. Over the same period of time, KDHE saw testing rates increase. This increase in demand for COVID-19 tests has led to longer wait times, delays in turnaround of test results, and decrease in availability of rapid over-the-counter antigen tests.”
KDHE is actively working to increase testing availability for all Kansans, the KDHE release noted, and KDHE has and continues to take to reduce wait times, improve turnaround times, and increase the number of mass testing sites in Kansas:
• Identifying new partner labs to increase testing capacity and reduce test result turnaround times.
• Sourcing indoor locations for mass testing sites to reduce closures due to weather.
Up to date information on testing locations and hours can be found at knowbeforeyougoKS.com.
KDHE is taking additional actions to expand testing access:
• Community Testing Partners (CTPs): expanding the number and geographic footprint of partners (such as pharmacies, local health departments, and hospitals) to ensure broader availability of testing across the state.
• Long Term Care Facilities (LTCFs): extending funding for PCR testing through March 2022 for Long Term Care Facilities to ensure they have screening and surveillance testing to protect the most vulnerable.
• K-12 testing: prioritizing antigen testing kits for school districts, sourcing over 520,000 additional antigen test kits, and updating testing protocols to continue to keep Kansas schoolchildren safe.
“Additionally, at-home COVID-19 rapid tests are now available for free at covidtests.gov. All households are eligible to order four free at-home tests, which will typically ship within 7-12 days,” the KDHE release noted. “The first shipments of tests will begin in late January. For Kansans with a health insurance plan, over-the-counter tests can be purchased at no cost or reimbursed through your health plan as of Jan. 15. Check with your health plan for details and keep your receipt to submit a claim to your insurance company for reimbursement. For Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP beneficiaries, please check with your plan or state agency for information.”
KDHE will continue to develop and pursue additional initiatives to increase testing capacity and shorten turnaround times to keep Kansans safe, the KDHE release noted, and in the meantime, KDHE continues to urge Kansans to use the following tools to protect against COVID-19 and the Omicron variant:
• Get vaccinated and boosted.
“Vaccines remain the best tool to protect people from COVID-19, slow transmission and reduce the likelihood of new variants emerging,” the KDHE release noted. “The authorized COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective in preventing serious illness, hospitalizations and death.”
• Wear a mask.
“Masks offer protection against all variants. It is recommended that people in Kansas wear a well-fitting mask in public indoor settings, where COVID-19 transmission remains high, regardless of vaccination status,” the KDHE release noted.
• Social distance.
“People should avoid large gatherings and stay at least 6 feet from others when in public settings, especially if you are at higher risk of getting sick,” the KDHE release noted.
• Stay home.
“If you have tested positive or are showing symptoms of COVID-19, such as a sore throat, cough, or fever, avoid spreading the virus by staying isolated,” the KDHE release noted. “Consult a healthcare provider on your recommended course of treatment.”
To find a free testing location in your community, or guidance about who should get tested, visit knowbeforeyougoKS.com.
To learn more about the vaccines, visit kansasvaccine.gov.
Find and schedule a vaccination appointment at vaccines.gov.