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Federal COVID-19 test program nears end, and local group wants to help

Some people are still testing regularly and relied on the monthly federal allotment.

SEATTLE — Throughout the pandemic, the Facebook group "Find a COVID Shot WA" has helped people navigated the ins and outs of getting vaccinated, but on Monday the group made a small but important change. It added the word "test" to its title, making the name "Find a COVID Shot/Test WA."

"The demand has shifted, right? We're always in a deficit for supply and demand. Then that deficit very quickly turns into surplus. So right now, from a testing standpoint, with the federal test allocation ending, we're going to see that deficit scenario," said Steve, the co-founder of "Find a COVID Shot/Test WA." He prefers not to share his last name for privacy reasons.

The federal COVID-19 testing program, which allowed people to have test shipped directly to their home, is being placed on pause. 

"Ordering through this program will be suspended on Friday, September 2 because Congress hasn’t provided additional funding to replenish the nation’s stockpile of tests," an alert on the website said starting Friday.  

Steve said some people are still testing regularly and relied on the monthly, federal package. He said pausing the program raises concerns about equal access to COVID-19 testing.

"Without [the federal program] now, it requires transportation, it requires in many scenarios, people running out, and they're having to buy tests," said Steve. He said the Facebook group is working to help people navigate those possible barriers. 

There are still ways to obtain tests. Dr. James Lewis, a health officer with the Snohomish Health District provided a few recommendations. 

  • Washington State Department of Health still provides tests for free at this time and you can visit https://sayyescovidhometest.org/ for more information.
  • Testing sites are still available. People should check with each location regarding potential fees that may apply, but testing is free at many sites.
  • If you have medical insurance, many companies will reimburse you for COVID tests you buy over the counter. Check with your insurance plan to see if they do and how to submit a claim.
  • If you can afford them tests are available in most pharmacies for about $10 to $25 per box, some come with multiple tests and some kits come with a single test so look at the box carefully.

Steve said over the next few months he expects demand for testing to once again increase. He noted the infrastructure for the federal plan is in place. If the program gets funding, it can quickly start shipping tests again. 

In the meantime, he said anyone needing help finding or accessing a test can reach out to "Find a COVID Shot/Test WA" and one of the group's 70 volunteers will be able to help. 

"It's going to be interesting to see how this goes. Hopefully, it'll go smooth and local organizations like us, can help support as many people as possible," said Steve.

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