Residents of two U.S. counties will be the first to try out a new community health initiative designed to determine if frequent self-testing for COVID-19 can help reduce local transmission of the virus.
As many as 160,000 residents of Pitt County, North Carolina and Chattanooga/Hamilton County, Tennessee will participate in the “Say Yes! COVID Test” program jointly administered by the CDC and the National Institutes of Health. They will have access to free rapid antigen tests that they can do at home whenever they choose, up to three times a week for one month.
Participants will be able to order their test kits online for home delivery or pick them up at a local distribution site. A free online tool, also available as a phone app, will be offered to provide testing instructions, text message reminders about when to test and information to help them interpret test results.
“If self-testing is shown to effectively reduce viral spread in the selected communities, the hope is that it will lead to wider distribution and acceptance of frequent home testing across the country…ultimately providing an easy and accessible new means of stemming the spread of the virus,” said Elizabeth A. DiNenno, Ph.D., an associate deputy director at the CDC.
The two communities were chosen based on local infection rates, availability of accurate COVID-19 tracking data, and existing local infrastructure to support the project. The nasal swab test being used, QuickVue, can detect the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 viral antigen within 10 minutes; it received FDA emergency authorization for at-home use with a prescription in early March.