Bi-Mart COVID-19 testing

Giavonna LaMiller, under the direction of volunteer Catherine Parks, prepares to self-administer a COVID-19 test in the Bi-Mart parking lot, the site of a mass testing event in La Grande on Friday, Aug. 27, 2021.

SALEM — Oregon to receive nearly one million more test kits in the next week, according to health officials.

Oregon officials say they are on track to receive a total of six million at-home COVID-19 test kits, or a total of 12 million individual tests, by the end of January.

That includes nearly one million test kits anticipated in the next seven days.

The increase in testing capacity comes as Oregonians are stuck in lines to get tested, and finding empty store shelves where at-home tests should be, all while watching case numbers rise across the state.

“While it may seem like a COVID-19 test is impossible to find, Oregon’s testing volume has never been higher than it is today,” Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen said in a press conference Thursday, Jan. 13.

The state ordered the test kits near the end of last year. So far, it has received fewer than one million kits.

Although Oregon has heightened its testing capacity, demand for COVID-19 tests has continued to increase with the spread of the omicron variant.

Oregon reported Jan. 13 9,797 new COVID-19 cases. The state’s seven-day average of cases was just more than 7,600 — a 128% increase over the previous week.

COVID-19-related hospitalizations are also on the rise. Allen with OHA said as of yesterday there were more than 750 hospitalized COVID-19 patients. That’s a 45% increase over the past week.

Distribution of tests

Some states have offered “direct-to-consumer” opportunities for obtaining tests, but Allen said Oregon will not be doing that.

Instead, Allen said the six million at-home test kits will be distributed to: hospitals, schools, local public health authorities, Tribal governments, and community-based organizations that serve underrepresented communities. He said they’ll also go to Head Start programs, and organizations that serve agricultural workers and people experiencing homelessness.

“Our test distribution strategy is grounded in fairness and equity,” Allen said. “We are prioritizing the six million tests we’ve purchased for organizations serving people who are most exposed or most vulnerable to COVID-19, or people who have less access to a test.”

The focus on underserved populations is mirrored in the state’s plan for the COVID-19 treatment, Paxlovid.

Allen noted that OHA is supporting 10 high-volume vaccine sites in the western half of the state, six of which have testing available.

“We are working to add testing to the remaining sites by next week through partnerships with Curative and the federal government,” Allen said.

Starting Jan. 15, the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde will open a high-volume vaccination site at Spirit Mountain Casino and testing will be added in the next week, Allen said.

Allen said the demand for testing will remain high for several more weeks.

For people who are feeling sick, but are low-risk for complications due to COVID-19, and do not have access to testing, Allen said they should assume their symptoms are COVID-19 and take proper isolation protocols as laid out by the Centers for Disease Control.

That means isolating from other people for five days. After the five days, if symptoms are gone, people are advised to return to normal activities while still wearing a well-fitted face mask.

Allen acknowledged that OHA’s daily case counts are missing many at-home test results, as well as undiagnosed cases. OHA announced Jan. 12 a new hotline and website for people to report positive test results from at-home kits.

“To be completely transparent, we are likely approaching the maximum capacity our testing system has to identify cases,” Allen said.

Moving forward, Allen said hospitalizations and deaths will continue to represent the most reliable and significant metrics due to testing limitations.

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