By TED O’NEIL
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) — King County has purchased 300,000 at-home COVID-19 test kits that it plans to start handing out next month after Washington state has seen a sharp spike in the number of coronavirus cases in recent weeks.
According to a news release from King County Executive Dow Constantine, the first shipment of 100,000 tests is expected to arrive during the second week of January, with the rest expected to arrive soon after. The county, which is where Seattle is located, is also working on purchasing additional kits.
The tests will be distributed to community-based organizations, community health centers, senior centers, libraries and other congregate locations. Details on how and where to obtain the tests will be available once all plans are finalized.
“Having test results in minutes, not hours, is an important part of keeping people safe and healthy during this surge in cases,” Mr. Constantine said in the release. “These kits will help residents make swifter and more informed decisions on how to prevent further infections, and know whether to stay home.”
The news release did not indicate how much the county paid for the tests. An online search shows pharmacies are selling different brands for between $10 and $40.
The Washington Department of Health reported a record 6,235 new cases on Dec. 24. The previous single-day record was 5,526 cases reported on Dec. 7, 2020.
Overall, the state has seen 834,235 positive cases and 9,801 deaths since the pandemic began in March 2020. The latest surge is believed to be due to the omicron variant, which has reportedly been found to infect people who are fully vaccinated and have received a booster shot, although with milder symptoms in many cases.
According to the King County Public Health Department, the average count of new daily cases over the past seven days is 1,987, a 213% increase over the previous seven days, and hospitalizations due to COVID-19 are up 58%.
“We know the demand for tests has increased in recent weeks and supplies are constrained, and more help is on the way from the federal and state governments,” Mr. Constantine said. “But we can’t wait. These kits will help us add capacity to our existing testing network and help communities hit hardest by the pandemic.”
King County has also distributed 1.6 million face masks in the last two weeks and will include an additional 600,000 to be given away with the test kits.