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Shelby County to purchase 90K at-home COVID-19 test kits

Published: Jan. 19, 2022 at 8:01 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Shelby County Commission approved an emergency request from the Shelby County Health Department (SCHD) to purchase 90,000 at-home testing kits.

The county will spend $1.4 million for the tests from Abbott Laboratories in Orlando, Florida.

It comes as the federal government launched its website, COVIDTests.gov, where people can order four free at-home tests and have them delivered to their homes.

“We can make sure that we do have some supply of rapid test kits in as many households who would want to have them in Shelby County or as many as we can get them in. And then they can add that to whatever supply they may be able to order from the federal government,” said SCHD Dr. Michelle Taylor.

But it will take 7 to 12 days before the tests ordered through the federal government’s website are shipped out through USPS.

It could take up to four weeks before the tests the county ordered arrive.

“I think the new tests, although welcome and helpful, they’re going be too little too late for theoOmicron surge here,” said Dr. Stephen Threlkeld, an infectious disease specialist at Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis. “I think that’s going to be going away, I hope by the end of this month, and certainly into the next month.”

Threlkeld said the tests could still be helpful if used strategically, like containing school outbreaks or protecting the most vulnerable.

The three commissioners who voted against the tests, including Commissioner Mick Wright, questioned the health department’s strategy.

“I just don’t understand why we’re doing this in the way that we’re doing it and what the goal is, what we hope to achieve, and what we’re going to do the next day when these are used,” Wright said.

Wright also cited social media comments from his constituents, urging him to vote against the tests.

Some people called it a waste of money.

Taylor responded and said providing at-home test kits would help people return to work safely.

“I believe testing is a great strategy to keep the economy going in a positive direction,” said Taylor.

Taylor said the health department hopes to work with churches and community groups to distribute the tests.

The federal website ran into problems with its rollout.

Some people who live in apartments complained they weren’t able to order their tests because the system didn’t recognize their address.

USPS said the glitch only impacted a small percentage of users.

People who run into problems can contact USPS.

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