At-home testing allows for a higher testing capacity when there is a higher demand, and for COVID test results to be known at a faster rate when an individual cannot make it to a testing site.
As cases of COVID-19 ebb and flow, testing remains one of the best tools to trace the spread of the virus. Now as New York City once again reaches a period of a high-risk level of transmission, NYC Test & Trace works to meet population needs. To meet much of the testing needs, the At-Home Test Kit Distribution program was created.
At-Home Test Kit Distribution
In December 2021, NYC Test & Trace launched the At-Home Test Kit Distribution Program in partnership with the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene as a response to the omicron surge. With supply still low at the time, the initiative started with approximately 50 community-based organizations, most of whom were current or previous as NYC Care or Test &Trace Resource Navigation providers.
The idea was to begin with institutions with a history of providing public health programming, particularly in high-needs communities identified by the Task Force on Racial Inclusion and Equity (TRIE). The program went on pause in late December, as the State directed test kit resources to be used for schools. It was a staggering re-start in early January, as H+H was able to secure more test kits to slowly grow the program, both in the number of community partners enrolled, and the number of test kits that could be allocated to each group.
Starting in February 2022, libraries, museums, and other organizations within all five boroughs started distributing free rapid at-home testing kits for pickup. One testing kit is recommended per person.
Today, Test & Trace has a thriving program with over 850 partners engaged in distributing test kits and personal protective equipment (PPE) across NYC – and we hope to keep growing! Almost 30% of the program is made up of houses of worship, which were particularly active in April, ahead of, and during the religious celebrations of Passover, Ramadan, Easter, and Vaiskakhi.
To date, our community-based and faith-based partners have distributed over 1.6 million test kits. We continue to enroll new eligible organizations each week, and project distributions to continue through the end of the summer, possibly beyond. We invite other NYC-based 501c3 non-profit organizations and houses of worship to apply: https://bit.ly/rapidkit_waitinglist.
At-home testing for high-risk individuals
Sometimes, someone might not be able to make it to a distribution site or a testing site because they are at high-risk for severe infection. For New Yorkers who are immunocompromised and for those who are 65 years of age or older, at-home testing can be brought to you. Appointments can be scheduled by calling (929) 298-9400 between 9:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., seven days a week.
Using an at-home test kit
For anyone who has received a test kit, there are simple and clear tips that are provided by the NYC Health Department COVID-19: Testing page, instructional videos and information on how to get free tests. Additionally, the NYC Test & Trace COVID-19 Resource page has important information on what to do based on your results. The COVID-19 Quarantine and Isolation Guidance Tool is also a great resource to help navigate the complex world of quarantine and isolation guidance.
It is important to remember to always read the instructions on the box of the test kit, as there is a wide variety of kits available.
For more instructions, check out the “Tips for Performing an At-Home Test” guide which is available in 14 different languages.
More from the Test & Treat Corner:
Voices of Contact Tracers: Supporting NYC in its Greatest Time of Need — Part 2