From left: Jae Hyun and Mee Ran Sung are all smiles after receiving free COVID-19 take home test kits at a high-volume COVID-19 vaccination event at the International Community Health Services (ICHS) Shoreline Medical and Dental Clinic, Jan. 6, 2022. Photo by Karen Ducey/ICHS.

Irma Garcia has been feeling unsettled by the news of COVID-19 cases rapidly rising across King County. After hearing about the International Community Health Services (ICHS) walk-in COVID-19 vaccination event on Jan. 6 at the ICHS Shoreline Medical & Dental Clinic, she decided it was time to get her booster shot.

“I feel safer with the third vaccine,” Irma said, “especially with cases going up and [Omicron] being really contagious.”

To her surprise, along with her booster shot she also received a free rapid, at-home COVID-19 test kit. Garcia and other vaccine recipients at the Jan. 6 event were the first community members to receive self-test kits from ICHS through President Biden’s COVID-19 Action Plan.

Path out of the pandemic

Health officials have emphasized that rapid testing is a key part of responding to the overwhelming surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the Omicron variant. However, the reality is that at-home test kits are difficult to find and expensive.

Those most at risk of being sickened by COVID-19—elderly residents, uninsured or low-income, and racial and ethnic minorities who face barriers accessing health services—are finding test kits inaccessible, said Braden Hirasawa, ICHS director of clinic operations.

The federal government recognizes this as well. As part of the Biden administration’s “Path Out of the Pandemic” COVID-19 Action Plan, community health centers like ICHS that serve medically underserved communities will receive at-home self-test kits directly from the federal government to distribute to patients and communities for free.

ICHS received its first shipment on Tuesday, Jan. 4. The next day, ICHS began distributing the test kits.

“ICHS is at the forefront”

Since test kits only came with instructions in English, ICHS staff quickly developed easy to understand instructions in multiple languages so that the test kits could be distributed in an efficient and effective manner.

“Our goal is to get COVID-19 tests into patients’ hands and out in the community,” Hirasawa said. “This is an amazing opportunity for our patients. ICHS is at the forefront of providing access to resources for communities that need it most.”

ICHS will continue distributing at-home test kits through its vaccine events. Anyone who receives a vaccine at these events can get a free test kit, while supplies last.

Armed with testing instructions in Chinese, ICHS Patient Services Representative Minh La explains to Mai He how to use her at-home COVID-19 test kit. Photo by ICHS.

COVID-19 testing safety and guidelines

If you test positive from an over-the-counter COVID-19 test kit, please report it immediately by calling the Washington state COVID-19 hotline at (800) 525-0127. Language assistance is available. The hotline is open Monday, 6:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m., and Tuesday-Saturday, 6:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued warnings that fake COVID-19 test kits are being sold online. Make sure the test you’re buying is authorized by the FDA. Follow these Federal Trade Commission tips if you’re shopping online for COVID test kits and related items.

ICHS administers walk-in COVID-19 vaccines at ICHS pharmacies in Shoreline and Seattle (International District and Holly Park neighborhoods). Non-ICHS patients may walk in on Thursdays only from 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. ICHS patients may walk in Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Visit the ICHS website to learn more.

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