Photo: Annie Spratt, Unsplash
An at-home COVID-19 test
The federal government has more free at-home COVID-19 testing kits available, and Cincinnatians can start ordering them now.
This week, U.S. President Biden announced that a second round of free COVID tests are available to U.S. residents at COVIDtests.gov
. Residents can request a set of four free tests per round, or eight in total.
staff members tested the government site on Thursday, taking just a few minutes to input names and addresses to request the kits, which would be delivered by the United States Postal Service . The process was smooth and quick, and orders are expected to arrive within two weeks.
The feds had launched the free program in January
as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths climbed higher due to the fast-spreading Omicron variant of the coronavirus. At the time, community testing sites were crowded and at-home kits were gone from pharmacy shelves.
The government purchased 1 billion at-home tests for the program and had distributed about half of them during the first round of requests. The tests are to be used if someone experiences COVID-19 symptoms, has been in close contact with another person who developed COVID or who wants to ensure that they're COVID-free before visiting an immunocompromised friend or relative.
Cincinnati-area governments, businesses and entertainment venues have been changing their COVID-19 safety protocols
as the recent Omicron surge begins to subside. The city of Cincinnati has lifted masking and testing requirements for city employees as well as for members of the public who enter city facilities.
Likewise, there is no longer a masking requirement for employees of Hamilton County, County Commissioner Denise Driehaus told reporters on March 2, though she added that many employees continue to wear them to help protect others as well as themselves.
On March 7, Cincinnati Public Schools updated its masking policy
, saying that masks were no longer required in its facilities and vehicles. There are requirements in place for those who test positive for COVID-19, however, and CPS says masking protocols could return if local COVID cases spike again.
Cincinnati's entertainment venues also are updating their COVID-19 protocols. Music Hall officials said that starting March 14
, guests will no longer be required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test to enter, and masking will be optional. This affects those attending or working a Cincinnati Ballet, Cincinnati Opera, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Pops or May Festival performance.
Individual businesses and organizations may continue to implement masking, social distancing, testing and other COVID-19 safety protocols.
Under its new, data-based guidance
, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend indoor masking for those in areas with low or medium community spread. Based on the CDC's map of spread, Hamilton County is currently green, which means there is low community spread of COVID.
The CDC does, however, continue to recommend indoor masking in areas with high spread. The CDC notes that "at all levels, people can wear a mask based on personal preference, informed by personal level of risk" and that those who have symptoms, exposure of who have tested positive should wear a mask.
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