Free COVID-19 tests to be given out at Detroit library branches, to vulnerable communities

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Free COVID-19 tests are coming to Detroit and other communities in Michigan vulnerable to the coronavirus through two programs, including a new one announced Friday.

The Detroit Public Library will be handing out COVID-19 tests Tuesday at its main location and permanent branches.

The number of free tests from the state health department will be "extremely limited" and will be given on a first-come, first-served basis from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. or until quantities run out.

Distribution will be outside in trick-or-treat style from a building door, so customers should dress accordingly. Face masks are required.

Examples of COVID-19 at-home tests
Examples of COVID-19 at-home tests

Here is a list of the locations:

  • Campbell Branch, 8733 W. Vernor Hwy

  • Douglass Branch, 3666 Grand River Ave.

  • Edison Branch, 18400 Joy Road

  • Jefferson Branch, 12350 E. Outer Drive

  • Main Library, 5201 Woodward Ave.

  • Parkman Branch, 1766 Oakman Blvd.

  • Redford Branch, 21200 Grand River Ave.

  • Wilder Branch, 7140 East 7 Mile Road

More: Free at-home COVID-19 test kits available at some Michigan libraries, including Detroit

The state health department recently announced it would be making 5,500 at-home COVID-19 test kits available at 18 libraries across Michigan in a pilot project. The initial test kits went to libraries in Calhoun, Clare, Newaygo, Oceana and Saginaw counties and the cities of Detroit and Taylor in Wayne County.

The state health department has not sent additional tests to participating libraries or expanded the project to more locations because of a national shortage in over-the-counter COVID-19 tests, spokesperson Lynn Sutfin said.

She said there is a meeting next month with the Michigan Library Association to discuss expanding to additional locations as testing supplies allow. She said the state health department set up a system for libraries to submit orders and feedback on the last Friday of the month, and she did not have additional information to share Friday.

A CVS store in Canton had 17 boxes of the BinaxNOW at-home coronavirus tests on its shelves on Oct. 15, 2021. The tests were selling for $23.99 a piece. But the store was completely sold out of Quidel Quickvue Rapid COVID-19 Antigen self-tests.
A CVS store in Canton had 17 boxes of the BinaxNOW at-home coronavirus tests on its shelves on Oct. 15, 2021. The tests were selling for $23.99 a piece. But the store was completely sold out of Quidel Quickvue Rapid COVID-19 Antigen self-tests.

The news came shortly before The Rockefeller Foundation announced that Michigan will be one of six states that will receive free COVID-19 tests for vulnerable communities.

Project Access Covid Tests (Project ACT) will provide free at-home COVID-19 tests at www.AccessCovidTests.org. It initially plans to deliver 1.1 million tests to at-risk residents in Arkansas, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico and Ohio before expanding across the country, according to a release.

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In Michigan, Sutfin said this includes households in certain ZIP codes in Berrien, Genesee, Kent, Macomb, Muskegon, Oakland, Saginaw and Wayne counties and the city of Detroit.

States can access tests at a lower price point and allocate supplies through the public-private partnership. The foundation provided the initial $7.45 million investment to launch the project with the six state health departments.

The health departments are directing an initial number of eligible residents in vulnerable communities to order tests through the website. Each household will receive one kit with five tests within one to two weeks of ordering.

No payment information is required and the tests and shipping are free to eligible residents, according to the foundation's release.

A screengrab Jan. 28, 2022 of the Project ACT website, where residents in vulnerable communities in six states can order free, at-home COVID-19 test kits. Michigan is one of the six states in the program through The Rockefeller Foundation.
A screengrab Jan. 28, 2022 of the Project ACT website, where residents in vulnerable communities in six states can order free, at-home COVID-19 test kits. Michigan is one of the six states in the program through The Rockefeller Foundation.

The states determined eligibility based on ZIP codes within the highest risk of COVID-19 using the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Social Vulnerability Index combined with state data on COVID-19 burden.

Elizabeth Hertel, the state health department director, said in the release that the program will put more tests in the hands of Michiganders during this coronavirus surge fueled by the omicron variant.

While hospitalizations for confirmed cases are decreasing in Michigan, there were still about 13,155 new confirmed cases each day on Thursday and Friday, according to state data.

"Testing is an important tool to limit the spread of the virus and at-home tests allow individuals to very quickly determine if they are positive for the virus and take actions to isolate and seek treatment if needed," she said. "I urge Michiganders to order their tests today in addition to getting the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine and their booster dose when eligible, as the vaccine is our best defense against the virus.”

The federal government also is mailing four, free at-home rapid antigen COVID-19 tests available online at COVIDtests.gov. Orders are to ship within seven to 12 days.

A box of the rapid at-home COVID-19 tests from the federal government that arrived Tuesday in the mail in metro Detroit.
A box of the rapid at-home COVID-19 tests from the federal government that arrived Tuesday in the mail in metro Detroit.

If you have trouble accessing the internet or need additional help placing an order for the free federal government tests, call 800-232-0233 to get assistance in more than 150 languages from 8 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week.

More: Free at-home COVID-19 tests, N95 masks are arriving in Michigan: What you need to know

More: Michigan health department to give out free KN95 masks to residents

Those with disabilities can place orders by calling 888-677-1199 from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday or by emailing DIAL@usaginganddisability.org.

The federal government also is giving out 400 million adult N95 masks from the National Strategic Stockpile — masks that are or will be available at retailers such as Meijer, CVS, Walgreens, Kroger, Costco, Rite Aid, Walmart and Sam's Club, federal and state officials said.

More: COVID-19 hospitalizations beginning to ease, Detroit-based Henry Ford Health says

The state health department also will be giving out 10 million free KN95 masks to residents to help them protect themselves from COVID-19.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer made the mask announcement Thursday, with masks being distributed by community organizations, including state and local health department offices, Area Agency on Aging offices, Community Action Agencies, Federally Qualified Health Centers and Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE).

Contact Christina Hall: chall@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter: @challreporter.

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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Free COVID-19 tests available at Detroit libraries, to vulnerable communities

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