Amherst Among High Need Communities Slated To Receive COVID At-Home Rapid Tests

COVID-19 home test kit. Photo: Flckr.com (CC BY 2.0)

Source: mass.gov

Amherst is among 102 Massachusetts communities designated by the state as “high need” that will receive COVID at home rapid tests. The Baker-Polito administration announced on December 13, its plans to increase access to at-home COVID-19 test kits for residents across the Commonwealth. The Administration has secured 2.1 million iHealth Labs over-the-counter (OTC) at-home rapid antigen tests that will be delivered to 102 towns with the highest percentage of families below the poverty level. These free tests will be available for distribution to the public by each municipality, with an emphasis on increasing access for individuals and families who are facing financial hardship.

“With the holidays approaching, we encourage residents to utilize rapid tests as a convenient way to keep family members and friends safe at gatherings,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “While these tests are widely available at many pharmacies and retail locations across the Commonwealth, we are making it even easier for residents to get free rapid testing through these initiatives.”

“Massachusetts has developed a nation-leading testing infrastructure, with free testing available across the Commonwealth,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “Increasing access to these free OTC rapid antigen test kits will serve as another tool to combat COVID-19.”

While the initial 2.1 million OTC rapid antigen tests will be distributed to 102 high-need communities across the Commonwealth, the administration is finalizing plans to allow municipalities and other public entities to directly purchase tests from test manufacturers at fixed, state-negotiated prices. The administration posted a procurement opportunity on December 10 for manufacturers, and municipalities, who will be able to order in January, 2022. The administration will provide more details on how municipalities can procure these tests later in the coming weeks. Municipalities are able to utilize American Rescue Plan Act funding, as well as Federal COVID-19 Relief funding to purchase the rapid antigen test kits.

At-home COVID-19 rapid antigen test kits are a fast, easy and convenient way to test for COVID-19.  In addition to the administration providing iHealth Labs OTC at-home rapid antigen test kits and allowing municipalities to directly purchase tests, residents can visit local pharmacies or order online to purchase rapid test kits on their own, as needed. 

Massachusetts performs more COVID tests than almost any other state in the country thanks to the hundreds of existing testing locations across the Commonwealth, including 38 free state sponsored Stop the Spread testing sites.  Residents can continue to access these COVID testing sites during the holidays. All testing sites are listed here: mass.gov/gettested.

How These Communities Were Selected:
The 102 municipalities in the Commonwealth with the highest proportion of families at or below the poverty level are receiving iHealth Labs OTC at-home rapid antigen test kits in this initial distribution. All 20 of the Commonwealth’s most disproportionately impacted equity communities were included by these criteria. In total, the 102 municipalities account for nearly 3.7 million Massachusetts residents. 

iHealth Labs OTC at-home rapid antigen test kits will start to be delivered to the eligible communities this week by the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, in partnership with the Massachusetts National Guard. Tests will be distributed proportionally across the 102 communities based on the proportion of families living at or below the poverty level within their respective communities.

While each city or town will be able to determine how best to distribute tests within their community municipalities are asked to prioritize those most in need, allocating equitably and at locations accessible to individuals and families who are determined to be in high need and as quickly as possible during the holiday season. 

The Commonwealth is paying $5 per test. All tests come in packs of two. The tests can be completed in 15 minutes without the need to send a sample to a laboratory; a mobile phone or computer is not needed for any part of the test. Individuals two years of age and up can use the tests regardless of vaccination status or whether or not they have symptoms.

CDC last week issued guidance on self-tests like the iHealth tests, with information on when to consider self-testing, how to complete the tests, and how to react to a positive or negative result. Visit here to view the guidance.

COVID-19 rapid tests are one of many risk-reduction measures, along with vaccination, that can protect individuals by reducing the chances of spreading COVID-19.

For detailed information on testing, visit mass.gov/gettested

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