Free at-home COVID-19 test kits now available at Iowa City Hall, Linn County Public Health

Still from at-home COVID-19 test kit instructional video

Free at-home COVID-19 test kits are now available at City Hall, Iowa City announced on Wednesday morning.

These testing kits will be available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, according to a news release from the city. “The kits are supplied to the City by Johnson County Public Health and will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Testing kits will be refurbished weekly as supplies allow.”

“Kits should only be taken for immediate use by the individual or for family members, limit of four per household.”

The test kits are available at the information desk in the lobby of City Hall. Anyone entering City Hall or any other municipal buildings in Iowa City and Johnson County is required to wear a face mask to help limit the spread of COVID-19.

Test kits can also be picked up and/or dropped off at the State Hygienic Laboratory in Coralville (2490 Crosspark Rd) and Linn County Public Health in Cedar Rapids (1020 6th St SE). Kits may be picked up, but not dropped off, at Remedy Internal Medicine (501 12th Ave Ste 104, Coralville), the Community Health Free Clinic (947 14th Ave SE, Cedar Rapids), the Catherine McAuley Center (1220 5th Ave SE, Cedar Rapids) the Eastern Iowa Health Center (1201 3rd Ave SE, Cedar Rapids) and dozens of other locations across the state.

The tests are part of the Test Iowa at-home testing program Gov. Kim Reynolds announced as a replacement for the drive-through testing centers, the last of which closed in July. Like the drive-through program, the at-home testing is paid for with federal COVID-19 aid.

Unlike the drive-through tests, the at-home tests do not involve nasal swabs. They are saliva tests, in which you spit into a tube. The test kit is then mailed to State Hygienic Laboratory, which is able to process it within 24 hours of receiving the sample. The test kit comes with a prepaid return address label for shipping.

Internet access is needed to register the test so it can be processed, but for those without access, the kit includes a phone number to call for assistance.

Public Health experts have said the low rate of COVID-19 testing in the United States has impeded attempts to mitigate the spread of the virus.

“Testing has always been sort of the original sin of this pandemic,” Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious diseases expert at Johns Hopkins University said during an appearance on MSNBC on Monday. “We’ve never been able to test adequately, we’ve never been able to use tests the way they should be used and I think there’s a lot of spread of infection and a lot of disruption to people’s lives because we lack proper testing.”

Adalja was on the cable news network for a discussion about the COVID-19 testing program Des Moines Public Schools began on Monday. Working with one of the Colorado-based tech companies behind Test Iowa, the district set up two drive-through sites where students, teachers and staff can be tested for free. The company, Nomi Health, “will either be reimbursed by an individual’s insurance or will submit a claim for federal health program grant funds for the uninsured,” according to the Associated Press.

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DMPS created the program in response to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases that occurred since the governor closed down the drive-through testing programs.

As the Des Moines Register reported on Monday, finding at-home test kits has been a challenge for many Iowans. The Biden administration is scheduled to announce on Wednesday a new initiative to make at-home tests more available.

“The administration said the plan to buy $1 billion worth of rapid, at-home coronavirus tests and other actions should address ongoing shortages and quadruple the number of tests available to Americans by December, according to a White House official and senior administration official with knowledge of the pending announcement,” the Washington Post reported Wednesday morning.