The Michigan health department is offering free, at-home COVID-19 test kits to residents in an effort to help underserved areas of the state.
Nearly 5,500 test kits were shipped to 18 libraries across Michigan this week in a pilot project. The kits went to libraries in Calhoun, Clare, Newaygo, Oceana and Saginaw counties and the cities of Detroit and Taylor in Wayne County.
The news Friday came just before the White House announced a new website — COVIDtests.gov — where Americans can go to order free, at-home COVID-19 test kits starting Wednesday.
Every home will be able to order four at-home tests that will be mailed directly to the household through the postal service. There will be no shipping costs or the need to enter a credit card number when ordering. Tests will typically ship within seven to 12 days of ordering, according to a White House fact sheet.
In the Michigan project, each of the 18 library locations received 300 at-home kits that contain one test. Additional kits will be shipped to these locations as needed and more libraries will be added to the distribution in the coming weeks, the state health department said.
The kits are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Residents are asked to take one kit per person, up to five kits per household. Kits are available during the select libraries' business hours.
The pilot is to help the state health department's approach to the project going forward in partnership with the Michigan Library Association. Information is to be posted at michigan.gov/coronavirus.
“With the proper protocols for distribution and pickup in place, we believe that this will be a great opportunity for libraries that want to participate to get involved as distribution points in their communities,” said Deborah Mikula, the association's executive director. “Many of our libraries are ready to provide access to these test kits for our most vulnerable citizens and have been asking for some time how to get involved.”
State health department director Elizabeth Hertel said "testing is an important tool to limit the spread of the virus and we encourage residents to visit participating library locations to get their test kit.”
Demand for testing is high in the state, with at-home tests difficult to find on store shelves and testing sites overwhelmed as Michigan deals with this surge of COVID-19 fueled by the highly transmissible omicron variant.
State health department data on Friday showed Michigan had about 18,557 confirmed cases of the coronavirus each of the last two days, and 4,579 adults and 117 children are hospitalized with a confirmed case of the virus.
Hospitals are overwhelmed, with five federal medical teams already in the state helping hospitals care for patients, with a second team on the way to Henry Ford Hospital in Wyandotte.
Here are the 18 libraries that were to receive COVID-19 test kits this week by county:
Homer Public Library, 141 W. Main St., Homer
Pere Marquette District Library, 185 E. Fourth St., Clare
Surrey Township Public Library, 105 E. Michigan St., Farwell
Harrison District Library, 105 E. Main St., Harrison
Hesperia Community Library, 80 S. Division St., Hesperia
White Cloud Community Library, 1038 Wilcox Ave., White Cloud
Hart Area Public Library, 415 S. State St., Hart
Pentwater Township Library, 402 E. Park St., Pentwater
James E. Wickson District Library, 359 S. Franklin St., Frankenmuth
Detroit Public Library, 5201 Woodward Ave., Detroit
Detroit Public Library - Campbell, 8733 W. Vernor Hwy., Detroit
Detroit Public Library - Edison, 18400 Joy Road, Detroit
Detroit Public Library - Jefferson, 12350 E. Outer Drive, Detroit
Detroit Public Library - Parkman, 1766 Oakman Blvd., Detroit
Detroit Public Library - Redford, 21200 Grand River, Detroit
Detroit Public Library - Wilder, 7140 E. 7 Mile Road, Detroit
Detroit Mobile Library, various locations, Detroit
Taylor Community Library, 12303 Pardee Road, Taylor
The state health department also has provided test kits in the MI Backpack Home Tests program, in which parents, students and school staff can sign up to take home COVID-19 test kits, as well as distributing rapid antigen tests to schools, prisons and long-term care facilities.
To find a testing site near you, go to solvhealth.com. Community pop-up testing sites are at michigan.gov under Coronavirus - Community Based Pop-Up Rapid Antigen Testing Events, including tests at welcome centers, airports and neighborhood sites statewide.
In the federal program, President Joe Biden's administration is buying 1 billion at-home COVID-19 tests to give to Americans for free.
In addition to the new federal website, the administration will set up a call line to help those who are unable to access the website to place orders and will work with national and local community-based organizations to support the hardest-hit and highest-risk communities in requesting tests, according to the fact sheet.
They will prioritize orders to households with the highest social vulnerability and in communities that have experienced a disproportionate share of COVID-19 cases and deaths, particularly in this recent omicron surge.
Earlier this week, Biden's administration said that starting Saturday private health insurance companies will be required to cover at-home COVID-19 tests for free — for a family of four on the same plan that means 32 tests would be covered by their health plan per month — and will make an additional 10 million tests available for schools across the country each month.
Steven Anderson, president and CEO of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, said people should save their receipt for over-the-counter COVID-19 tests and submit them to their health plan for reimbursement.
“The fact is that the supply of over-the-counter COVID-19 tests will remain limited, and these tests may not be immediately available at every pharmacy,” he said in a statement Friday. "The existing supply of over-the-counter tests has been strained by the omicron surge.
"Simply put, communication of ‘free’ over-the-counter COVID-19 tests does not mean they will be ‘freely available’ at the beginning. Consumers should determine whether they need an over-the-counter COVID-19 test at this time, or whether another form of COVID-19 testing may be right for them."
Contact Christina Hall: email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter: @challreporter.
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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Free at-home COVID-19 test kits coming to Detroit, Michigan libraries