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At-home COVID-19 testing kits available free to Oahu residents via federal program

The Hawaii Department of Health on Monday announced that Oahu has been selected to participate in a federal pilot program providing 125,000 residents in eligible zip codes with free, at-home COVID-19 test kits.

The “Say Yes! COVID Test” at-home testing challenge is a cooperative effort between DOH, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, community partners, test manufacturer Quidel, and health care technology company CareEvolution.

Each participating resident will be provided with eight rapid antigen tests by Quidel to be used twice a week for four weeks total, regardless of symptoms, to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Health officials believe that rapid, self-administered testing can potentially disrupt the spread of COVID-19 that occurs when people are infected, but do not yet have symptoms. Researchers will use publicly available data from the program to determine if local testing efforts slowed the spread of COVID-19.

“Free, rapid, self-administered testing will give community members one more way to help reduce the spread of COVID-19,” said Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Char in a news release. “This program provides participating communities with another tool to protect themselves and their families as we continue to increase access to testing.”

Most Oahu zip codes are eligible for the program, including: 96701, 96706, 96707, 96712, 96717, 96730, 96731, 96734, 96744, 96762, 96782, 96786, 96789, 96791, 96792, 96795, 96797, 96813, 96814, 96815, 96816, 96817, 96818, 96819, 96821, 96822, 96825, 96826, 96844, 96850, 96853, 96854, 96857, 96858, 96859, 96860, 96861, 96863.

To participate, eligible Oahu residents can order test kits at COVIDTestHonolulu.org for home delivery through Oct. 18 or while supplies last. The test kits will also be available at pick-up locations, to be announced soon, and through community organizations.

The rapid antigen COVID-19 tests provided are authorized for use by the Food and Drug Administration, and require a quick swab inside each nostril, with results ready in about 10 minutes.

Health officials say ideal candidates include individuals who have not yet received the COVID-19 vaccine, or who have high risk of exposure due to work or school outside of home. Anyone over the age of 2, however, is welcome to participate.

Instructions on how to test and read results will be available via a free online tool or phone app.

Those who test positive on the self-administered tests should follow home isolation guidelines, plus seek follow-up testing through their health care provider.

Data from the test kits is stored securely, and no DNA or specimen is collected, health officials said. But individuals may elect to share their test results with the state Health Department.

The self-administered tests cannot, however, be used for workplace testing requirements or other programs requiring documented testing.

The program has also been launched in other counties in Georgia, Michigan, and Tennessee.

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