If you think you may have been exposed to COVID and need a test, there are now more options beyond the doctor's office, emergency room or pharmacy.
The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) has partnered with public libraries across the state to offer rapid at-home COVID tests for free.
A press release from the ODH says last month 246 libraries made more than 53,000 tests available across Ohio, including right here in Cincinnati.
“As the Delta variant spreads across the state and our students and teachers head back to school, there has been renewed interest in testing for COVID-19,” said Governor Mike DeWine in a release. “These tests — and Ohio’s amazing network of public libraries — make it easier than ever for Ohioans to get tested and to ensure that we are limiting the spread of the Delta variant.”
Libraries are offering the BinaxNOW home test and the ODH says it is "packaged with a telehealth session to oversee test administration and result reporting."
The Cincinnati Public Library says the tests are available at drive-thru branches in Anderson, Covedale, Delhi Township, Downtown, Groesbeck, Harrison, Reading and Symmes Township. They do recommend you check availability with each library before attempting to pick up a test due to high demand.
The library says they also offer walk-up nasal swab testing. Check dates, times and locations — and pre-register — at healthcollab.org/testandprotect.
As of Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has listed every single county in Ohio and Kentucky — including counties around Cincinnati on both sides of the Ohio River — as having high risk for COVID-19 transmission. All counties on the CDC's data tracker are red, indicating the most severe situation.
After initially having speedy vaccination rates and subsequent downward-trending cases in the spring, Greater Cincinnati has become a hot spot for the coronavirus this summer and heading into autumn. On June 13, Ohio had just 182 daily COVID-19 cases, according to the state's coronavirus dashboard. Since then, the case rate has steadily increased to 325 on July 6; 2,251 on Aug. 6; and 6,326 on Aug. 31.
Similarly, hospitalizations have increased over the summer. On June 14, just 34 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Ohio, compared to 24 on July 6; 77 on Aug. 6; and 122 on Aug. 31.
Cases and hospitalizations have increased in Cincinnati's home of Hamilton County, as well. On June 6, 19 Hamilton County residents reported COVID; on Aug. 31, that number had dramatically increased to 406 cases, according to Ohio's dashboard.
Things are no better in Kentucky, where 10,500 residents have reported new COVID-19 cases, according to Aug. 4 comments from Gov. Andy Beshear. Beshear also said that record numbers of residents were in hospitals and on ventilators, and 1,547 cases were in people ages 18 and younger.
Unvaccinated individuals are at the highest risk for severe infection and substantial health issues from coronavirus, experts say, though some vaccinated individuals have also become infected due to Delta's highly contagious nature and the number of unvaccinated individuals within their communities.
Not all individuals are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, though, which concerns health officials. Medical leaders repeatedly mention masking as a way to protect children, who are unable to be vaccinated if they are ages 11 and under. The contagious virus also is a danger to people with weakened immune systems, including those with cancer or respiratory issues.
“Until more people are vaccinated, testing will be an important tool, and we are committed to making it easy to access,” said Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, director of ODH. “Our partnerships with libraries to make the at-home rapid tests accessible and convenient are a real breakthrough in our ability to get as many Ohioans tested as possible.”
The ODH says "unlike some of the uncomfortable tests that were available at the beginning of the pandemic, these tests are painless and can be conducted from the comfort of home."
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