The federal government is suspending the shipment of free, at-home COVID-19 tests Friday, with a message on the ordering site noting "Congress hasn't provided additional funding to replenish the nation's stockpile of tests."
"The federal government needs to respond. This is really nationwide. This is just an example of the dysfunctionality we have at Congress at the federal level," said Thomas Denny, a Professor and Chief Operating Officer at the Duke Human Vaccine Institute.
The announcement comes just before the Labor Day holiday, and as schools largely return to full, in-person classes.
"Testing has been a challenge for us through this whole pandemic. Ad now you have a lot of people coming back together again - schools, people coming off of vacation, being close together, traveling, I'd be surprised if we didn't see an uptick in some infections. It doesn't mean that we're going back to where we were in 2020. But again, the lack of vaccination coverage in some individuals makes testing an important rule," Denny explained.
North Carolina's COVID-19 metrics have improved, with NCDHHS reporting dips in new cases, hospital admissions, emergency room visits, and virus particles found in wastewater last week. However, less than half of children in North Carolina have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
"We continue to have testing locations and events where people can go get tested. We also have a program where people can request a kit get mailed to them. That's a PCR test that then gets sent off to a laboratory. So we have a number of ways where people can still access testing despite the change in the federal program," said Dr. Susan Kansagra, Director of the North Carolina Division of Public Health at NCDHHS.
Dr. Kansagra noted they have more than 200 community access sites, and support vendor sites, largely in underserved areas.
"For those people that have insurance, you can show your insurance card to your pharmacy and get eight at-home tests each month as well," Kansagra explained.
According to the FDA, "at-home COVID-19 antigen tests are generally expected to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus at least 80% of the time when someone is infected."
Families can order from free, at-home tests from the federal government up to three times.