The Biden administration is offering free COVID tests again as part of its COVID-19 winter preparedness plan, and households are eligible for four tests each.
“As expected, we’re seeing COVID rising across the country this winter. And while COVID isn’t the disruptive force it once was, we are focused on ensuring that the U.S. is prepared for this winter no matter what the virus throws at us,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, the Biden administration’s pandemic response coordinator.
More than 16,000 coronavirus cases were recorded last week for the third week in a row in Ohio. The 16,719 cases added Thursday is also the most reported since Sept. 15, when 20,552 weekly cases were recorded, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Thursday also marked the third consecutive week the state reported more than 600 hospitalizations.
“We don’t want this winter to look like last winter or the winter before. And our winter COVID-19 preparedness plan helps us do just that,” Jha said.
The White House stressed the importance of taking advantage of the updated COVID-19 booster shots, with Jha saying, “The updated COVID-19 vaccine is your best protection against the version of COVID we’re fighting right now.” To find a COVID-19 vaccine location, visit vaccines.gov.
Part of its COVID-19 winter preparedness plan are free at-home COVID tests with that window of opportunity being open for a limited time. Each U.S. household can order up to four at-home tests free from covidtests.gov, with tests starting to ship as early as this week.
Public Health - Dayton and Montgomery County said taking advantage of the free COVID-19 tests is a good idea, especially if anyone is experiencing symptoms and also as a safeguard heading into holiday gatherings. John Steele, public information specialist with Public Health, said close contact gatherings indoors for extended periods of time are the primary way that illnesses like COVID, influenza, and RSV spread.
“We definitely expect to see increases,” Steele said. There is also limited ventilation with indoor gatherings during the winter months, he said, which contributes to the spread of illnesses.
For those who are sick or experiencing symptoms, Steele recommended staying home or postponing gatherings for the holiday until the illness subsides.
“We really encourage people to access and make use of those free tests,” said Nate Smith, communications coordinator with the Clark County Combined Health District. Other than staying up to date on vaccinations, Smith said COVID-19 tests were one of the most important tools in controlling the spread of COVID-19.
Oral treatments are available for individuals who catch COVID-19 who might be more susceptible to severe illness from the virus. Those oral treatments work best if they are taken as soon as possible after testing positive from COVID-19, Smith said.
If an individual is exposed to COVID-19, Smith recommends getting tested five days after the exposure, as well as potentially again a couple days after that if the first test comes back negative. With holiday parties approached, individuals may also want to get test prior to going to any events, particularly if they are going to be around anyone immunocompromised.
“We have seen increases have seen an increase in COVID after most of these holidays,” Smith said. Thanksgiving was also no exception, which has seen an uptick in confirmed case of COVID following holiday gatherings.
“It’s not just COVID we’re concerned about. The flu and RSV remain very much out there,” Smith said.
In addition to free tests from the federal governments, residents in Clark County can get tests from the Clark County Combined Health District between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday at the health district, which is located at 529 E. Home Rd., Springfield.
Other agencies are also expecting to see an increase in the spread of illnesses with families getting together for the holidays. The Warren County Health District is also anticipating increased cases of illnesses to be spread during this season.
“This can be due to the fact that many people are going to be traveling to spend time with their friends and family, and a lot of this time will often be spent inside, in close proximity to each other,” said Allison Combs, public information officer with the Warren County Health District. “These conditions allow for the spread of COVID-19 and other illnesses such as the flu. It is an excellent idea for residents to order the free COVID-19 tests to have on hand if needed. It is always a good idea to have COVID-19 tests available at any time of the year, especially during the holiday season.”
For Warren County residents, the Warren County Health District currently has free COVID-19 tests available for pick up. Individuals should call the health district at 513-695-2097 to request pick up of the COVID-19 home test kit.
How to protect yourself
Each county in the Dayton region is at a medium level of COVID-19 spread, according to the Centers for Disease Control’s community levels system. For level medium, individuals should consider the following:
- If you are at high risk for severe illness, talk to your healthcare provider about whether you need to wear a mask and take other precautions.
- Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines.
- Get tested if you have symptoms.