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Where vaccination rates are low, experts look to at-home tests to help prevent COVID spread

Francesca Chambers, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

“That’s one of the weapons we’ve got here in this war against this virus to try and keep it from getting worse,” he said in a McClatchy interview.

The U.S. government has experimented with self-testing as a way to reduce COVID-19 spread, including a program the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched with the NIH in March that provided residents of two counties, one in North Carolina and one in Tennessee, free access to rapid antigen tests for a month.

Although the government typically has less visibility into the results of at-home tests, and the responsibility largely rests with individuals with positive results to make the decision to quarantine, health experts say they are important to preventing the spread of COVID-19.

“I think it’s a very good investment … to get tests in people’s hands, so there are no impediments to getting that information,” Aspinall said.

A Health and Human Services Department spokesperson emphasized the importance of vaccines and testing for the unvaccinated in a statement. “That is why the Administration has invested in expanding access to testing and taken policy actions to make it easier to access testing including through at-home testing.”

TESTING DECLINE

 

Testing nationwide sharply decreased in June, falling by 29.4% from the prior month, according to data compiled by the Deloitte COVID Testing Coordination Center, which tracks PCR tests and was provided to McClatchy by the Rockefeller Foundation. The company’s data and CDC reporting showed that testing continued to decline nationwide in July, though it has recently increased in certain states.

Coronavirus cases are climbing in some parts of the country, despite widespread availability of COVID-19 vaccines. According to the latest federal data, Arkansas, Florida and Missouri have the highest rate of COVID-19 infections nationally as a percentage of population.

At least a dozen states are finding that tests are coming back positive 10% of the time or more, state and federal data show, putting them in a range that medical experts said is concerning.

Former Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who served in the Trump administration, said more testing is urgently needed to find out if the number of positive individuals is actually higher.

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