All Pima County libraries are offering free at-home COVID testing amid spikes

Pima County is now distributing at-home COVID-19 testing kits in all public libraries, according to the Department of Health.

Rates of new cases of COVID-19, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus infections have all been much higher than their five-year averages this winter, especially heading into the holiday season when cases typically spike , officials said.

The “triple pandemic” of respiratory illnesses prompted the Pima County Health Department to issue a health alert last Thursday due to “high” levels of COVID-19 transmission across Arizona and local hospitals, which were filled with flu and RSV cases reached.

On Sunday, Tucson Mayor Regina Romero reported that she tested positive for COVID via her social media.

“I encourage people in our community to step up and continue to take precautions and wear a mask indoors,” the mayor wrote in Facebook and Twitter posts. “I will continue to work from home in accordance with public health recommendations.”

PCHD is responding to the surge in infections by offering more free at-home COVID testing kits in all 26 public libraries starting Monday. Previously, only 12 libraries were offering free kits, but about 52,000 were still being picked up as of early September, according to the county.

Anyone can report the results of their home test – whether positive or negative – online. Health officials have trouble tracking overall positivity rates for COVID-19, or the percentage of people who have tested positive for the virus, because results aren’t reported back, Cullen said.

Eddie Diaz, PCHD’s health disparity program manager, said in a press release that “it’s important that everyone has access to COVID-19 testing over the next few months, especially during holiday gatherings.”

“Ensuring that these tests remain free and conveniently available during the winter months when cases begin to rise again is critical to our efforts to contain the spread of the virus in our community,” he said.

Pima County libraries have also stopped requiring people to sign up with their personal information to receive the COVID testing kits, Dr. Theresa Cullen, director of the Department of Health, ahead of Thanksgiving weekend.

PCHD recommends that people take two tests for each family member. The test kits are available at tables in each library or upon request at the service desk.

The number of COVID cases reported in Arizona for last week was 12,987 cases with 42 deaths, while Pima County had 2,326 cases and two deaths over the same period, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Arizona’s RSV case count for Thanksgiving week, the latest available figures, was 1,517 new cases, compared to a five-year average of 65 cases for that week.

Pima County reported 131 new RSV cases for the same period, according to the AZDHS, compared to a five-year average of 9 new RSV cases for the county during Thanksgiving week weekly RSV report.

The number of flu cases in Arizona for Thanksgiving week was reported with 3,354 new cases, compared to a five-year average of 234 new cases this week. According to AZDHS’ weekly flu report, Pima County had 216 new cases of the flu during Thanksgiving week, compared to a five-year average of 39 new cases for that period.

The free at-home test kits are available during each library’s opening hours, which vary on the Monday after Christmas Day and the Monday after New Year’s Day.

Pima County is trying to “provide rapid, free COVID-19 testing for everyone,” according to a press release, and is also continuing COVID immunization at its public health clinics and through mobile events, offering more in-person testing at the Abrams Public Health Center, and providing oral medications for treatment. All of these services are free, according to the county.

Michelle Simon, associate director of support services at the Pima County Public Library, said in a press release that “expanding our distribution of free COVID-19 testing kits is an essential part of our effort to connect people to public health information and resources.”

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