Washingtonians will soon be able to order free at-home COVID-19 tests through a new state Department of Health website, health officials said Wednesday morning.
The website, which is expected to launch within a few days, is the latest tool state health leaders have come up with to address the stretched demand for both rapid and PCR testing supplies over the past month as the omicron variant of the coronavirus has made its way through the state.
The announcement comes a day after the federal government soft-launched its own test-ordering tool for American households.
“Home tests, in particular, are a key component of your medical kit at home and something we want you to have on hand before you need them,” Lacy Fehrenbach, the state’s deputy secretary for COVID-19 response, said during a Wednesday news briefing. “We also want to lift the burden off our emergency departments right now so that critical care can go to people who really need it.”
Once the state’s website launches, each household will be able to order one testing kit, which includes four to five tests, Fehrenbach said. The kits are expected to arrive within one to two weeks.
Within the first week, the state predicts serving 350,000 households in Washington, though more tests will pour in over the next several weeks.
“While supply chains are improving, they’re still strained and when we’re low or out of stock temporarily, you will not be able to order a test,” she added. “So we ask for your patience and we encourage you to check back if that happens.”
The state is partnering with Amazon and CareEvolution to create the website, health officials had said in early January.
Those with limited internet access or who need a translator will be able to order at-home testing kits through the state’s COVID-19 hotline (1-800-525-0127).
The state, meanwhile, also continues its efforts to distribute tests and masks, particularly to community partners and schools, state Secretary of Health Dr. Umair A. Shah said Wednesday.
Over the holiday weekend, more than a million tests were shipped to community groups and schools and as of Wednesday, 5 million more N95, KN95 and surgical masks had landed in the state, Shah said. Roughly 5 million more masks are also on the way.
In addition, Gov. Jay Inslee last week announced the Washington National Guard would help staff hospitals and testing sites across the state, as the health care system struggles with surging COVID-19 hospitalizations.
Inslee had said the Guard members would be sent to hospitals in Everett, Spokane, Wenatchee and Yakima to take over nonmedical tasks, while others will help hospitals set up testing locations in Olympia, Richland and Tacoma, and at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center.
Guard liaisons have been deployed into the health care system and are moving forward with hospital support, Shah said Wednesday.
“There is some hopeful news … but at the same time we also recognize that we still have several weeks of real challenges,” Shah said.