Federal free at-home COVID-19 testing ends as holiday weekend starts
Based on community levels of COVID-19, which measures the overall impact of the virus in hospitalizations and healthcare systems strain, New Mexico’s map is pretty green – indicating low levels. That’s based on the latest data from the CDC. But when you look at transmission levels of COVID, measuring the presence and spread of the virus, the map is very red. This latest data comes as we head into a holiday weekend and as the federal government stops supplying free COVID tests.
According to the updated message on CovidTests.gov, the website and phone number to order tests, “Effective September 2, 2022, ordering free standard at-home COVID19 Rapid Tests has been suspended.”
With school in full swing, CovidTests.gov, the federal website providing free COVID-19 tests, was suspended on Friday. Language on the website blames Congress for not providing additional funding to replenish the nation’s stockpile.
But state officials have relied heavily on home testing to manage the pandemic. Acting Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase said as much at the last statewide update on COVID a month ago.
"We have the tools we need," Scrase said. "We have readily accessible testing, even at home."
Meanwhile, Project ACT the free at-home testing program DOH supports, is still in place as long as supplies last. It’s a joint effort from The Rockefeller Foundation, state health departments, CareEvolution, iHealth Labs, and Amazon, and distributes tests based on zip codes in eight states, including New Mexico.
In August, the CDC relaxed its recommendations on testing for exposed students, citing concerns about the cost of maintaining test programs should Congress not authorize the funding. DOH reports only 1 in 4 of those aged 12 to 24 are boosted and up to date on their vaccinations.
Eighteen deaths from the virus were reported on Sept. 1 and New Mexico loses almost 8 people a day due to COVID. New Mexico now claims the 5th highest COVID mortality rate all time, nationally. While hospitalizations have declined in New Mexico since the end of July, they are still double the rate of just this past May. DOH says one out of three New Mexicans are at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
Health officials recommend N95 masks should be worn indoors, in public settings, in counties with high COVID levels. Those who still need boosters can register at cv.nmhealth.org. KUNM.org also has an updated list of COVID-19 resources.
Monkeypox and long COVID continue to raise concerns. There are now almost 19,000 cases of monkeypox nationally with 26 cases in New Mexico and 20% of COVID survivors experience a Long COVID condition.