COVID Q&A: Free, at-home COVID-19 tests are available in Idaho by dialing 2-1-1

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) is offering free at-home COVID-19 tests to Idaho residents.

Why is DHW offering the free tests?

The department was able to purchase the tests last year and were using them in conjunction with local public health districts and community partners. As the demand for testing has decreased, DHW staff worked with the test manufacturer, VAULT Medical, to develop a more convenient process that would make it easier for people to be tested in their own homes., We want to remove as many barriers as possible to testing so we can identify cases and continue to slow the spread of COVID-19.

How do I get a test?

Call the Idaho CareLine by dialing either 2-1-1 or 1-800-926-2588 to get the free test. The only personal information required is a name and mailing address. It may take a couple of days to receive it, so if you are having severe symptoms, you should seek medical attention immediately.

What if I don’t have symptoms or know whether I’ve been exposed to COVID-19? Can I still get a test?

The tests are available to anyone who asks for one, whether they have symptoms or not or have been exposed to someone who was sick with COVID-19. For example, you can request a test if you need proof of a negative result to travel.

How does the test work?

The test involves collecting saliva and mailing it to a laboratory that analyzes the sample. Saliva collection can be done in the convenience of your home with the assistance of a trained VAULT Medical observer via a virtual Zoom visit on a smart phone or tablet.

You will need to create an account on your phone or tablet using an email account. Following instructions included with the test, you will then contact a remote observer via Zoom and collect the saliva specimen as the observer watches over Zoom. The saliva sample will then be mailed to VAULT in a self-addressed, pre-paid envelope via UPS.

How quickly are results available?

Results are available to the individual electronically in 24–72 hours. Test results are also reported to Idaho state or local public health departments by VAULT, per federal requirements for all COVID-19 testing.

How reliable are these tests? Are they safe and accurate?

This test is a laboratory-grade PCR test using saliva, and it was one of the first COVID-19 tests to receive an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. It’s very sensitive, reliable, and safe.

Dr. Christopher Ball is the chief of the Idaho Bureau of Laboratories.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is dedicated to strengthening the health, safety, and independence of Idahoans. Learn more at healthandwelfare.idaho.gov. 

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