Put in your final requests for free at-home COVID-19 tests now, because once Labor Day weekend arrives, that will no longer be an option.
The federal government’s offer of free, at-home test kits to all households will be put on hold Friday (Sept. 2) after Congress failed to renew funding for the program, which launched in January during the pandemic’s biggest surge so far.
According to CNN, the government’s remaining stockpile will be reserved for distribution later this year, as cases typically climb as the weather cools, contributing to a severe shortage of testing supplies last winter.
The federal program has gone through three rounds so far, allowing up to 16 test kits per household. The Postal Service had distributed approximately 350 million kits to over 70 million households nationwide and overseas as of mid-May, the White House said at the time.
Since at-home tests aren’t reported, it’s unclear how much of an impact the program’s suspension will have in Fairfax County, but PCR tests have declined since late May. The Fairfax Health District, which includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, is averaging 1,067 testing encounters per day compared to over 6,200 at the peak of demand on Jan. 12, according to Virginia Department of Health data.
As of last Thursday (Aug. 25), 18.3% of PCR tests have come back positive in the past week, down from 22.8% in early August.
The Fairfax County Health Department notes that there will still be options for obtaining both at-home and PCR tests. Private insurers are required to reimburse up to eight at-home tests bought from retail stores or online per month, though that won’t help those without health insurance.
“Vaccination and testing — and staying home when ill — remain important strategies to keeping Fairfax County healthy and minimizing the spread of COVID-19,” the county health department said by email.
For now, COVID-19 cases continue to fall in the Fairfax Health District, which is averaging 223 new cases per day over the past seven days, per VDH data.
With a case rate of 143 per 100,000 residents, the county’s community level has been designated “low” for a second consecutive week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An estimated 72 new patients were admitted to hospitals with Covid last week, a rate of 6.3 admissions per 100,000 residents — still above spring levels.
One week into the 2022-2023 school year, Fairfax County Public Schools has seen a jump in cases, with students, staff and visitors reporting 417 cases since classes began last Monday (Aug. 22). The school system’s dashboard shows just 145 cases in the rest of August.
There were five outbreaks — three or more linked cases — in school and childcare settings for the week of Aug. 19-25, according to FCHD.
In total, the Fairfax Health District has reported 235,544 COVID-19 cases, 4,888 hospitalizations and 1,604 deaths during the pandemic.
Approximately 2,000 residents have gotten their first COVID-19 vaccine shot within the past two weeks, bringing the total up to 1,009,657 people, or 85.3% of the population, including:
- 92.9% of people 18 and older
- 99.3% of 16-17 year olds
- 95.7% of 12-15 year olds
- 62.7% of 5-11 year olds
- 14.7% of those aged 4 months to 4 years old
The district has 917,598 fully vaccinated residents — 77.5% of the population, including 85.3% of adults.
Photo via Steve Nomax/Unsplash
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