Distribution of home COVID tests begins in Bayamón
By The Star Staff
In response to a federal initiative, home coronavirus tests will begin to be distributed free of charge, as announced on Monday by Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón, Bayamón Mayor Ramón Luis Rivera Cruz, and Nilda Santiago Quiles, executive director of the Community Health Foundation of Puerto Rico.
“As part of the action plans that the federal government has been implementing since the beginning of the pandemic, the distribution of free home tests is now being incorporated, which helps to contain the spread of the virus more effectively and makes the tests more accessible to populations that cannot afford them and cannot obtain them due to the high demand,” González Colón said at a press conference.
The resident commissioner noted that each 330 Center must register with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in order to receive and distribute the tests. People who want to receive them will also have to comply with the requirements of the federal government and those determined by each 330 facility.
She said the test distribution program is voluntary, and urged all qualified centers to request the tests and to make them more accessible to the population of the island.
Per the federal Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) instructions, “Only Medicare-certified health centers and rural health clinics that choose to register with HRSA and place orders in the online ordering system will receive the COVID-19 test kits and any additional test materials that may be available.”
The HHS, through the HRSA, will provide free home self-assessment kits to Medicare-certified health centers and rural health clinics, to distribute at no cost to patients and community members. Ordering and distribution through the program, which is called the RSA COVID-19 Testing Supply Program (HCTSP), began earlier in December. Tests will be distributed to those who have symptoms or have had contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus. Patients are required to pre-register to make the distribution in an orderly manner. Health centers will report data to HRSA to support the implementation and integrity of the HCTSP. The data can be shared with the Puerto Rico Department of Health, with whom it will coordinate so that the tests can have the code (QR code) and the commonwealth can maintain an updated record of infections.
The HCTSP will distribute the COVID-19 Quidel QuickVue self-tests, which contains two tests. The rapid antigen tests can be self-administered at home and the results are available in 10 minutes.
The tests can be used if a person is symptomatic, asymptomatic, or within six days of the onset of symptoms. The tests can be self-administered and are recommended for use by people 14 years of age and older. For children ages 2 to 13, an adult can test for COVID-19.
The Community Health Foundation of Puerto Rico, center 330 located in Bayamón, will begin with the distribution of 10,000 free home COVID tests for the entire population of that municipality. They hope to receive more tests weekly and make them accessible to the other municipalities within their jurisdiction -- Vega Alta, Toa Baja, Cataño, Dorado and Guaynabo.