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More at-home COVID-19 testing kits expected to be available as the year progresses

Published: Jan. 6, 2022 at 8:00 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services says they are expecting at-home COVID-19 test kits to become more available to the public as the year progresses.

“Really from this point forward we should be expecting more and more commercial availability of these type tests,” said Dr. Coleman Cutchins, clinical pharmacist lead at the department.

According to Cutchins, many distribution centers faced strains in shipments during 2021 as part of the global supply chain crises.

“And then if you look at kind of the last two months of the year, they’re historically strained anyway,” Cutchins said. “So it just kind of — you that double whammy of extra strain, it was more a shipping problem than a materials problem.”

Now looking into the new year, finding at-home tests should become easier, according to Cutchins, as more retail stores and distribution sites start making them available.

On Wednesday, the Spenard Community Recreation Center handed out free, at-home COVID-19 test kits that the Anchorage Health Department obtained through a state program. Shane Robb, an Anchorage resident, received two boxes from the center and says the process of finding a kit was easy.

“I know I first looked at Walgreen’s, but as soon as I searched online, I saw that they were handing them out here for free. So, came right by and they were just that easy,” Robb said. “Literally walked in and grabbed them. I was inside for less than 10 seconds.”

The two distribution centers in Spenard and Fairview were not able to give test kits out on Tuesday, due to the severe weather in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. Anchorage’s test kits are stored in the Valley, and the poor weather prevented the locations from getting more tests to give out.

Cutchins said it shouldn’t be any more difficult for places in Alaska to get at-home test kits, with the exception of some rural areas. Cutchins said 10 to 15 years ago, that might have been a concern. But today, it shouldn’t be difficult for the vast majority of Alaska to get access to them.

He also had a warning for those who order the tests directly.

“If you order them online make sure that you’re at home when they get delivered,” Cutchins said. “If they sit outside and freeze even for a short period of time with the cold temperatures we’re seeing, you’ll have to throw them away.”

In addition, Cutchins said residents need to be aware of expiration dates on kit packages. Certain kits are expiring as early as the end of January.

Cutchins said that the FDA is planning to meet within the next two weeks to review the expiration dates on certain at-home test kits and an extension may be issued. He recommends that people review their COVID-19 at-home testing kit’s expiration date on the manufacturing website.

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