The government website for requesting COVID-19 rapid tests “should be online by this weekend,” Dr. Tom Inglesby, the lead on the White House’s new testing initiative, told PBS News Hour on Wednesday. Inglesby said tests will start to arrive this month.

President Joe Biden promised Americans last month 500 million free rapid home-testing kits, and he said those kits would be available for free through a website. The White House has yet to release a URL, but Inglesby’s comment suggests one will be online within days.

Biden has come under scrutiny for a nationwide shortage of testing kits amid an unprecedented explosion in COVID cases. Now the administration is working to make COVID-19 home tests more accessible, both by increasing supply and bringing down costs. On Monday, his administration announced that starting Saturday, private health insurers will be required to cover up to eight home COVID-19 tests per month for people on their plans.

COVID-19 antigen rapid test kits are pictured in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, December 30, 2021. 

COVID-19 antigen rapid test kits are pictured in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, December 30, 2021. 

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Imag

Cases are skyrocketing in the San Francisco Bay Area and testing demand has surged. The SF Department of Public Health said its testing sites have been running at 500% to 900% of capacity since the current surge began. Lines have wrapped around multiple blocks at COVID-19 testing sites around the region in recent days.

To help meeting testing demand, Breed announced Tuesday a mayoral order that calls on private health care providers to increase testing and provide weekly proof to the Department of Public Health that they are providing a COVID test within 24 hours to patients who present symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who is positive.

San Francisco’s seven-day average was 1,525 new cases a day, as of Jan. 4. This is more than four times that of last winter’s peak of 373 cases per day, the city said. San Francisco’s COVID-19 hospitalization numbers are starting to increase, but experts have said they haven’t risen as high as they likely would with fewer people vaccinated. In the city, 85% of the eligible population is fully vaccinated.

Amid the demand for testing, we answered some questions you may have. Some of this information appeared previously on SFGATE but has been updated as recommendations change and new information becomes available. Please send more questions to agraff@sfgate.com.

Who should get tested?

If you are fully vaccinated and don’t feel sick, health officials say you generally do not need to get tested — especially now when many people who really need to get tested can’t get access. If you feel sick and have symptoms, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you get tested even if you’re vaccinated.

You’re also advised to get tested if you had close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID. If you’re fully vaccinated, general health guidance recommends testing on day 5 after you were exposed. 

Dr. William Schaffner, a professor in the division of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University, said you could start testing as early as day 3. This is because the incubation period for omicron, which is the dominant variant in the U.S., appears to be shorter than past variants. Symptoms can start showing up as early as three days after exposure, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

If you test negative on day 3, you can test again on day 4 or 5, depending on your situation and access to test kits.

“Just make sure you don’t count the day of exposure,” Schaffner advised when determining the day on which to test. “If you’re exposed on Monday, Tuesday is day 1, Wednesday is day 2, Thursday is day 3.”

People in automobiles wait in line to get a drive-through COVID-19 test at the Kaiser Permanente hospital in Oakland, Calif., on Jan. 4, 2022. The line stretched more than three blocks, causing people to wait over an hour to receive an RT-PCR COVID test.

People in automobiles wait in line to get a drive-through COVID-19 test at the Kaiser Permanente hospital in Oakland, Calif., on Jan. 4, 2022. The line stretched more than three blocks, causing people to wait over an hour to receive an RT-PCR COVID test.

Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATE

Where can I get tested?

You can go directly to your health care provider such as Kaiser Permanente or Sutter Health for testing. Pharmacies such as Walgreens and CVS also provide testing. 

For more testing options, consult resources from your county that may offer unique testing opportunities at community and pop-up clinics.

-Find testing information for Alameda County.
-Find testing information for Contra Costa County.
-Find testing information for Marin County.
-Find testing information for Napa County.
-Find testing information for San Francisco. 
-Find testing information for San Mateo County.
-Find testing information for Santa Clara County.
-Find testing information for Sonoma County.
-Find testing information for Solano County.

Where can I buy at-home COVID tests?

Over-the-counter antigen tests can be purchased online or at most pharmacies and give you results in 15 minutes. They’re not as reliable as PCR tests, but they’re likely to catch COVID when people are at their most contagious.

These tests have been selling out quickly. Check with your local pharmacy to find out when they are going to receive a new shipment. You can also order them online. 

Beginning Saturday, you can check with your health insurance about coverage for at-home tests.

I have a student with symptoms. Can my family get tested through the school district?

Most school districts are offering testing options for students and families. Check with your student’s school district for availability.

San Francisco Unified School District, for example, is providing mobile rapid testing to students returning from winter break, in addition to San Francisco Department of Public Health testing sites and the district’s ongoing Color testing program. Students are also receiving take-home rapid test kits supplied by the California Department of Public Health. You can find testing options for students on the SFUSD website. 

Youngstown City Health Department worker Faith Terreri grabs two at-home COVID-19 test kits to be handed out during a distribution event, Dec. 30, 2021, in Youngstown, Ohio. Starting Saturday, private health insurers will be required to cover up to eight home COVID-19 tests per month for those on their plans, the Biden administration announced Monday, as it looks to lower costs and make testing for the virus more convenient amid rising frustrations.

Youngstown City Health Department worker Faith Terreri grabs two at-home COVID-19 test kits to be handed out during a distribution event, Dec. 30, 2021, in Youngstown, Ohio. Starting Saturday, private health insurers will be required to cover up to eight home COVID-19 tests per month for those on their plans, the Biden administration announced Monday, as it looks to lower costs and make testing for the virus more convenient amid rising frustrations.

David Dermer/AP

Where can I get tested to meet travel requirements?

Many testing sites that offer PCR tests are running behind and cannot guarantee test results within a certain time period. If you need a negative test for travel — for example, the United Kingdom requires one two days before your plane to England departs — you need to make sure that the site can guarantee a turnaround before your flight.

You also need to key into your destination’s specific testing requirements and ensure that your test result meets them. For example, Hawaii will accept test results only from testing partners that are considered trusted (see list at HawaiiCOVID19.com).

While testing is free or covered by insurance at many testing sites, you may have to pay up to $100 or more for a test at a location that guarantees a faster turnaround. Airport websites are a good resource for sites guaranteeing certain turnaround times. For example, the San Francisco International Airport lists three options, including Work Site Labs, which offers results within 1.5 hours for $250.

The Oakland International Airport directs passengers traveling to Hawaii and who need a negative test to the CityHealth website. 

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Read More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *