Department of Health unveils kiosks that offer free COVID-19, flu tests

The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) said Monday it is launching a groundbreaking community testing initiative in collaboration with local health jurisdictions and tribal nations to further support public health. Beginning this week, kiosks across the state will offer free COVID-19 and flu tests as well as other health care supplies. This initiative underscores DOH’s commitment to promoting health equity by reaching underserved communities and disproportionately affected populations, the agency said in a news release.

“In unveiling these innovative kiosks, DOH is taking a significant step towards ensuring the well-being of our communities,” said Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, Secretary of Health. “These 24/7 accessible kiosks exemplify our commitment to health equity, especially for underserved populations. Together with tribes and local partners, we are making a meaningful difference in community health and fostering a safer and healthier Washington for all.”

Kiosks can be found in food banks, transit stations, churches, schools and libraries and serve as a convenient solution for communities to access a variety of testing options with anonymity and personalization, DOH said. Seventeen kiosks have already been ordered by local health jurisdictions and tribal nations.

Key features of the kiosks include:

Convenient access: Kiosks make it possible to access health care tests and supplies at the push of a button in accessible locations 24/7.

No cost to communities: Kiosks are free to Tribal communities and LHJs. DOH covers all costs associated with COVID-19 and flu tests.

Test options: Kiosks dispense free COVID-19 rapid antigen tests, multiplex rapid antigen tests (which detect flu types A and B as well as COVID-19), and self-swab PCR tests.

Flexible product allocation: Each kiosk holds about 700 tests. At least half need to be COVID-19 and flu tests provided by DOH. Local health jurisdictions and tribal nations can choose to add other essential health care products to the kiosks at their own cost, such as naloxone, pregnancy tests, tests for sexually transmitted infections, fentanyl test strips and over-the-counter medications and products. If no additional products are added, kiosks will be filled with COVID-19 and flu tests.

Testing is an important tool to control the spread of respiratory viruses, the health department said. DOH’s respiratory illness data shows that although respiratory virus activity has decreased in recent weeks, influenza emergency department visits remain above epidemic levels. The number of hospital beds used by COVID-19 patients was higher in January than at any time this season.

DOH’s COVID-19 community testing program aligns with broader public health strategies aimed at mitigating the impact of the pandemic. These efforts expand community-based testing initiatives by working closely with local partners and community organizations to ensure widespread access to testing services across the state. By making testing more widely available, DOH empowers people to take proactive measures to protect themselves and others from COVID-19.

Those who test positive should take steps to prevent spreading COVID-19 or influenza to others. People who are at high risk for severe illness because of their age or chronic medical conditions should talk with their health care provider right away about antiviral medications that can decrease the risk of hospitalization, the department said.

“Rapid testing is part of our new normal,” said Kristina Allen, community testing supervisor. “This partnership with Long View International Technology Solutions ensures Washington communities with underserved populations have easy access to COVID-19 testing and essential health supplies, breaking down barriers to care and helping to promote a more holistic approach to public health.”

People can find more information about testing for COVID-19 on the DOH website along with other resources to help them understand the importance of testing and how to interpret their results.

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