With the widespread outbreak of the omicron variant, at-home COVID-19 tests are vital but hard to locate.
To help meet this need, Santa Clara County will start distributing 60,000 COVID-19 rapid antigen test kits Saturday at four drive-through locations: Hellyer County Park, Martial Cottle Park, Vasona County Park and Foothill College.
Dr. Jennifer Tong, associate chief medical officer at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, said Friday that at-home testing kits are another tool in fighting the ongoing surge. To date, booking in-person testing at sites throughout the county has been next to impossible with overwhelming demand.
“We know the need is right now,” Tong told San José Spotlight, adding at-home tests will likely become more available at pharmacies and through the federal government in the coming weeks. Individuals can order four free at-home COVID-19 tests from the federal government online or by phone at 1-800-232-0233 from 8 a.m. to midnight in multiple languages.
Those who live, work or attend school in Santa Clara County may sign up through www.sccfreetest.org. Each individual will receive four iHealth COVID-19 antigen tests per appointment, but must show their QR code to receive a test. There will be 15,000 appointment slots available.
Megan Doyle, Santa Clara County deputy executive, acknowledges that test kits are scarce, and said the county is working quickly to get them out to residents.
Clinics and community-based organizations are distributing antigen test kits as well. Tong said teams are going door-to-door in at-risk communities to distribute the test kits to those who are most in need, but might have the most difficulty obtaining them.
The at-home antigen test kits can be used by people who test positive for the coronavirus and meet CDC isolation guidelines to leave isolation, but may need a negative test to do so. Tong said they should use the antigen test as the PCR test would continue to pick up dead virus particles for weeks or months.
The at-home antigen test also might help someone exposed to COVID-19 or has symptoms and is facing a delay getting a PCR kit or result. The county increased PCR testing capacity this week, offering up to 9,000 appointments on Friday alone.
These two tests are different. The PCR test is preferred, because it detects RNA—genetic material—specific to the virus within days of infection. Turnaround time, however, can range from 24 hours to three days, due to demand. An antigen home test detects proteins specific to COVID. Results can be reported within 15 minutes and can be less accurate.
COVID-19 testing and test kits are also available for school communities.
San Jose Unified School District offers PCR testing for its students and employees off campus. To schedule an appointment, visit go.sjusd.org/COVIDtest.
The school district is also providing rapid antigen test kits for students and staff who test positive for COVID-19 to shorten their isolation period, once they have a negative antigen test. Those who do not take the antigen test may return after completing a 10-day isolation.
Jesus Marron, principal of Santa Teresa High School in the East Side Union High School District, said in an email to parents that the district is committed to providing free testing for all staff and students at all of its sites.
He said antigen rapid tests are recommended, whether taken at home or administered by a health care provider or testing site.
“We have limited testing only for those students who are unable to obtain a home test after testing positive and have been out of school for five days,” he said.
On Jan. 3, ESUHSD provided free at-home antigen COVID-19 test kits, with two tests per kit, for students upon request.
“We are making them available as an additional resource for students… to keep our students and their families and our staff safe,” Marron said.
Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected]
COVID test kit distribution sites in Santa Clara County
Santa Clara County will start distributing 60,000 COVID-19 rapid antigen test kits Saturday at four drive-through locations:
Hellyer County Park, 985 Hellyer Ave., San Jose 95111
Martial Cottle Park, 5283 Snell Ave., San Jose 95136
Vasona Lake County Park, 333 Blossom Hill Road, Los Gatos 95032
Foothill College, 12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills 94022 (offering evening hours)