You can now order free COVID-19 rapid testing kits from the federal government through the U.S. Postal Service. Thousands of Americans placed their orders Tuesday.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that the site was in its beta phase to allow troubleshooting ahead of Wednesday's official launch day, according to reporting from USA TODAY. The website is COVIDTests.gov, which then directs people to a U.S. Postal Service site.
Americans are supposed to be able to order four kits per address. Once ordered, the FDA-authorized at-home rapid antigen tests are expected to be mailed within seven to 12 days. Credit cards are not required to order.
“We can’t guarantee there won’t be a bug or two,” Psaki said Tuesday, “but the best tech teams across the administration and the Postal Service are working hard to make this a success.”
The limit is four tests per residential address, “to promote broad access, the initial program will only allow 4 free individual tests per residential address,” per the FAQ page. The website also says residents cannot chose the brand of test they receive.
You can get more free tests if you have health insurance and up to eight free at-home tests a month for each person on your health insurance plan.
COVID-19 in Cascade County
Deputy City-County Health Officer Bowen Trystianson gave an update on the status of COVID-19 in the community during the city commission meeting Tuesday night.
Trystianson said in the last week CCHD has seen a big increase in cases with 632 cases reported in the last week. He said CCHD has a backlog of cases they are going through and that folks were working through the holiday weekend to keep up with it.
He said that the average daily case rate was at 112 per 100,000, up from 72.7 per 100,000 that was reported last week. He said the positivity rate was at 22.4%, up from 13.7% last week, meaning that the community is still considered a high transmission community by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Trystianson said that the omicron variant is the dominant variant in the community.
“In speaking with our hospitals because we do have COVID admissions but you're not really needing the same intensity of care when they are admitted to the hospital, which is a good sign,” Trystianson said. “The only negative to that is that we have a number of hospital employees out with COVID, so they're seeing a bit of a strain but they are managing well.”
He said there are a number of other respiratory illnesses also circulating in the community, like influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). He said RSC is typically seen in elderly people and in pediatrics but that they’re seeing more cases in adults this year.
Trystianson said that the lab processing Alluvion Health’s drive-thru COVID-19 tests is processing about 1,000 tests a day, which he said was “very impressive throughput.”
He said the Montana State Public Health lab is still processing tests, as well as Benefis Health System and Great Falls Health Clinic that provide both rapid tests and PCR testing.
CCHD recommended people with no symptoms of mild symptoms get tested at the Alluvion drive-thru so as to not overwhelm local clinics and to remain home while awaiting test results and seek medical attention if your symptoms become severe.
Alluvion drive-thru testing is available at the Fairgrounds, Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
During the meeting, commissioners unanimously voted to appoint Commissioner Joe McKenney as the city representative and ex-officio member for the interim governmental body to oversee emergency orders from the Board of Health, as required under HB 121.
Mayor Bob Kelly was previously appointed to the position; however, he resigned to join the Board of Health itself as the city representative there. He said he respected what former commissioner Owen Robinson previously recommended in the representatives from the city in these two groups be different people. The interim governing body has yet to meet and has until June to determine the structure of the permanent governing body.
CCHD will be hosting an immunization clinic on Friday, Jan. 21, at Holiday Village Mall from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Both COVID-19 and influenza immunizations will be available, according to a CCHD press release. The clinic will be held at 1200 10th Avenue South, in Space 21 on the west end of the main corridor (the former Eddie Bauer space).
For COVID-19 vaccinations, both primary doses and booster doses are available in your choice of Moderna, Pfizer, or Johnson & Johnson. CCHD asks that you bring a photo ID, insurance card, and your vaccination card (if you have one).
CCHD said in the release that although the vaccines themselves are free of charge, CCHD may bill your insurance company an administration fee to help pay their nursing staff administering the vaccines. If you do not have insurance, there is no charge.
“Influenza vaccines are covered by most insurance. Without insurance, other forms of payment are accepted – the standard dose vaccine is $40 and the higher dose is $80. No one will be turned away for inability to pay,” the release read.
CCHD said most insurance providers are accepted, but they are unable to accept Humana or Blue Cross Blue Shield Medicare Advantage, however they will accept the red, white, and blue Medicare cards.
CCHD asks that if you are experiencing symptoms of a respiratory illness to wait until you recover before seeking vaccination.
Alluvion Health will be hosting a vaccine clinic at Paris Gibson Education Center from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Jan. 26.
The American Red Cross of Montana shared on Facebook Montana is seeing the highest surge of COVID-19 cases yet and that there is a “dire blood inventory situation.” To sign up to donate blood go to rcblood.org/appt.
Daily COVID-19 update
The state posted 2,051 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, bringing Montana’s total active confirmed reports to 11,242.
Montana reported 2,964 total deaths, an additional seven deaths since Tuesday’s report, and 242 active hospitalizations from the virus, six more since Tuesday, according to the state website covid19.mt.gov.
Cascade County reported 184 new cases and now has 647 active cases.
Of the state’s eligible population, 53% are fully vaccinated. Of the county’s eligible population, 49% are fully immunized against the virus.
The first case of COVID-19 in Montana was reported on March 11, 2020.
Gallatin County added 306 new COVID-19 cases for a total of 2,578 cases, the most of any county in the state. Missoula County added 259 cases for a total of 1,676 cases. Yellowstone County added 233 cases for a total of 1,965 cases. Flathead County added 144 cases for a total of 1,023 cases. Lewis and Clark County added 117 cases for a total of 756 cases.
USA Today reporter Kelly Tyko contributed to this report.
This article originally appeared on Great Falls Tribune: Free COVID-19 rapid tests now available to order through USPS