RI, Mass. begin distributing free, at-home rapid COVID-19 tests

Coronavirus

ATTLEBORO, Mass. (WPRI) -— While some residents walked out of Attleboro Public Library with books Friday, others left with at-home COVID-19 rapid tests.

The library was one of the sites the city was distributing iHealth Labs over-the-counter (OTC) at-home rapid antigen tests from as part of a new initiative to provide 102 of the state’s hardest hit communities with free tests.

The Baker-Polito Administration announced Monday the state secured 2.1 million test kits, which would be delivered to 102 towns with the highest percentage of families below the poverty level. In total, the 102 municipalities account for nearly 3.7 million Massachusetts residents.

The Commonwealth is paying $5 per test, which come in packs of two.

Rhode Island is also distributing free at-home rapid COVID-19 tests over the next two weeks.

Gov. Dan McKee announced on Monday the state is distributing 100,000 tests, which will be able to test 10% of the population.

McKee orders masks or vaccination cards in RI starting next week amid COVID surge »

“These are being distributed through organizations in communities that have been most significantly impacted. Those organizations include community organizations, libraries and community centers. However, there is not a centralized mechanism for a person to request an at-home test. These organizations will be pushing tests out,” R.I. Department of Health spokesperson Joseph Wendelken said in a statement to 12 News.

Wendelken said Rhode Island is also going to be expanding testing in the coming days to increase access, including access to rapid tests.

On Friday, the Health Department reported 1,142 positive COVID-19 tests for the previous day for a 6% positive case rate. A total of 252 people are reported to be hospitalized with the virus, with 38 in the ICU and 29 of those patients on ventilators.

Seven COVID-19 related deaths were also disclosed in Rhode Island on Friday, bringing the state’s deal toll close to 3,000.

McKee also requested an additional million at-home rapid tests from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The Attleboro Health Department said it is in receipt of 7,110 rapid test kits, which are being distributed through four sites over the coming days:

  • Attleboro Council on Aging
  • Attleboro Public Library
  • Attleboro Housing Authority (residents of housing authority only, will not distribute until 12/20/21)
  • All Attleboro Public Schools (NOT open to the public for pickup)

Joseph Morra, assistant library director, said the tests were flying off the shelves on Friday.

“It’s been nice to see a number of people coming in to the library, both old patrons, if you will, and our new patrons, to be able to help them out and optimize their health,” Morra said.

Morra said people walking in on Friday were relieved to know the tests were free.

“Purchasing at-home tests has become a little more challenging, when you go to a pharmacy. I think people are on a treasure hunt, if you will,” he added.

Dona Juaire said she was picking up free tests to have on hand, “just in case.”

“To purchase one at one point, it was like $35, so, and then you have to take it again maybe three days later, so it’s good to have one on hand,” Juaire said.

Lisa Deyo said she was picking up tests at the library in advance of her daughter coming home from college, noting how trying to get tested at urgent care or a test site can be challenging sometimes.

“So just to make sure that we’re safe, and we’re going to keep her safe, we’re doing our best. We’re immunized, but we do hope that everything is going to work out okay,” Deyo said.

Robert Lamoureux said he was picking up tests in advance of traveling out of state for the holidays, before seeing high-risk family members. He said several family members have died from the virus, while others are battling it right now.

“I’m going to take every precaution i can. I’m fully vaccinated, I’ve had the booster shot,” he added.

Baker said on Monday the initiative is not just a one time distribution, and the state is in the process of working with test manufacturers to make “bulk, cheap purchasing deals for every city and town.”

Baker’s office said municipalities will be able to order in January 2022, and more information on how municipalities can procure these tests later in the coming weeks.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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