A delayed shipment of tens of thousands of rapid at-home COVID tests has arrived in Anchorage, and city officials say they’re racing to distribute them to sites around town before New Year’s.
Rapid antigen tests have recently become more popular nationwide since they’re relatively easy to use and give results within about 15 minutes. President Joe Biden has also announced that the federal government will buy a half-billion of the at-home tests and will distribute them around the country.
Anchorage’s shipment Tuesday evening totaled 28,000 at-home test kits. By Wednesday, the city had distributed 2,000 of them to each of the recreation centers in Fairview and Spenard. The tests are free to residents who want them. Each person can get two tests, but must be physically present to pick them up.
By late Wednesday afternoon, the rec centers had given out hundreds of tests. The city will be handing out the at-home tests at the Anchorage Downtown Partnership New Year’s Eve Celebration on Friday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
A distribution site for the tests in Girdwood, meanwhile, had given out all 500 of its tests within about two hours on Wednesday, according to a Facebook post from the community’s fire department.
In the Mat-Su area, over a dozen sites are distributing at-home test kits, according to the borough’s health information website.
Anchorage’s health department was still confirming Wednesday where else the tests will be available, said city spokesperson Corey Allen Young. He said the city will add the additional sites as they’re confirmed at Anchoragecovidtest.org.
At-home test kits are also being sold for about $30 at local pharmacies like Walgreens, but several of the businesses said they were running low or had sold out due to increased customer demand with upcoming New Year’s celebrations and the looming omicron variant.
Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport is also handing out free at-home test kits to passengers inside security checkpoints. Passengers can ask for the kits at the airport testing site.
Plus, online retailers are selling at-home tests, but they may take several days or weeks to arrive due to high demand.
The at-home antigen tests aren’t as accurate as traditional PCR tests, but health officials say that with two tests taken at least a day apart, they are highly effective at catching infections.