Gov. Jared Polis delivered BinaxNOW rapid COVID-19 tests to educators in Arvada on Feb. 1, 2021. (Governor Jared Polis Facebook)
Recently, Colorado has seen high demand for the free, at-home COVID-19 tests that it ships to residents for free.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment last purchased 2 million Abbott BinaxNOW rapid at-home tests in September. On Thursday, CDPHE announced it would buy another 500,000 BinaxNOW tests from eMed Labs, for expected delivery early this month.
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“Colorado will be putting these important tests with a telehealth-guided option to use in our communities as part of our state’s comprehensive testing strategy,” CDPHE said in a Thursday statement. “We are pleased that all pending disputes and litigation between the state and eMed have been resolved.”
In the spring of this year, digital health company eMed accused the state of botching a rollout of at-home COVID tests — leaving most of the 2 million tests the state had purchased for more than $52 million sitting on shelves, the Denver Gazette reported at the time.
Anyone in Colorado can now sign up to receive at-home tests for free, though the program was designed particularly for parents and caregivers of school-age children, according to CDPHE’s website.
Businesses that employ 100 or more people, and are therefore subject to President Joe Biden’s vaccination-or-testing mandate, won’t be able to order the at-home tests for their employees who don’t get the vaccine.
“While we are committed to making testing convenient and easy for anyone who needs it, (the) Rapid At-Home program does not meet the (Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s) mandatory serial testing requirements,” a CDPHE spokesperson told Newsline in an email.
The OSHA rule says that employee tests can’t be “both self-administered and self-read unless observed by the employer or an authorized telehealth proctor.” Since the BinaxNOW tests could be taken by the employee in the privacy of the employee’s own home, and the results would be read by the employee at home, too, they don’t satisfy the requirements of the new vaccine-or-testing rule implemented by Biden’s OSHA.
“The best way to avoid the routine need for testing is to get vaccinated,” the CDPHE spokesperson said. “We urge all adult Coloradans, and parents of children ages 5-11, to get vaccinated. This has become a pandemic of the unvaccinated, and the vaccines are the best way to protect families, friends and communities.”
Still, having rapid, at-home tests on hand may be useful for reasons other than as an alternative to vaccination. The tests can help someone exposed to COVID-19 or experiencing symptoms determine whether they are contagious and should self-isolate.
To order the tests, Coloradans must first fill out an online application form.
Next, they’ll receive a confirmation email from CDPHE, and should click on the link to order a free test kit to their home.
Testing instructions are included in the at-home test kits. Coloradans should follow a list of steps from CDPHE to interpret and report their test results, which should be available within 15 minutes of testing.
Colorado now ranks seventh in the nation for the rate of new infections, according to data compiled by the New York Times, and about 1 in every 51 people in the state is thought to be contagious with COVID-19.
For those who currently have symptoms of COVID-19, CDPHE advises getting tested as soon as possible at one of the state’s free testing sites rather than waiting for a BinaxNOW test to arrive in the mail.
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