Starting this week, Colorado is partnering with private companies to provide 2 million rapid COVID-19 tests per month to K-12 teachers and staff across the state. Officials say that’s enough for educators to be tested every five days, whether or not they have symptoms.
Through a partnership with Amazon and digital health company eMed, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment purchased 2 million of the BinaxNOW at-home tests developed by Abbott and authorized by the federal Food and Drug Administration. In future months, the cost of the tests may be shared with school districts or reimbursed by the federal government.
The first 2 million tests cost $50 million plus $2.2 million for shipping, and they were paid for with state emergency reserve funds, according to a CDPHE spokesperson.
On Feb. 1, Gov. Jared Polis personally delivered 12 of the BinaxNOW rapid tests to educators at their homes.
“There’s only three states that have entered into this pilot partnership with Binax,” Polis said in an interview. “We’re receiving the most per capita, 2 million tests per month — which is enough for every educator, teacher and paraprofessional to be tested once every five days to give both educators and students the greatest possible confidence in the safety of their environment.”
As of Feb. 1, more than 250 schools and school districts across Colorado had requested test kits through the state’s new At-Home Testing Program, according to a statement from CDPHE.
“They are currently free to school districts for at least the month of February, and we’re in discussions with (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) to try to continue them into March and April as well at no cost to school districts,” Polis said.
Along with people 65 and older, Colorado teachers, child care workers and school staff will be eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine starting Feb. 8, as the state enters Phase 1.B.2 of its vaccination plan. Polis said he expects most people in that group will be able to get their first dose before the end of the month.
Those with questions about the vaccine can visit CDPHE’s website or call a toll-free hotline, 1-877-CO VAX CO (1-877-268-2926). The phone line is now available 24 hours a day and seven days a week with answers in multiple languages.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include the cost of the first 2 million BinaxNOW tests.