N.M. orders more than a million home COVID tests

·2 min read

Jan. 18—The state announced Monday it has ordered more than 1 million rapid home tests for the coronavirus for free use by New Mexico residents.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's office said the state has acquired 400,000 with many more to come next week. The governor intends to provide about a million tests every couple of weeks as long as they can be acquired.

The tests initially will go to areas of poverty and high caseloads of the coronavirus. After that, the program will expand for distribution throughout the state. President Joe Biden also is starting a mail-order home test program starting Wednesday, the state Department of Health said.

Home tests are designed to provide results in 15 minutes. A positive test will enable a person to let others know they have been exposed and to stay home or seek medical attention.

"I am committed to doing everything we possibly can to get the resources needed, despite national testing shortages," Lujan Grisham said in a news release. "I have directed the Department of Health to procure one million rapid tests every two weeks to ensure that every New Mexican has access to this critical tool in our fight against COVID-19."

Home testing, the state Health Department said, can reduce the spread of COVID-19 along with vaccinations and booster shots. The department also cited the importance of wearing masks indoors and physical distancing.

Dr. David Scrase, acting secretary of the Department of Health, said in a statement, "Part of learning to live with COVID as we go forward is putting the tools to fight the virus into our home, and home testing is one of the tools that in the long run will enable us to manage this pandemic."

The news release said home kits will be delivered in the next week to emergency managers in 26 counties, including 79 ZIP codes with high vulnerability to the disease. Tribal communities also will receive the home testing kits.

The state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and the National Guard will participate in the distribution of the tests. Home tests recently have been in short supply in pharmacies and stores in New Mexico. A push for their importance has been made over the past month or so by state and federal governments.

The state Health Department said if a person has symptoms of the disease but cannot get a test, they should assume they have contracted it and act accordingly. The department has created a webpage for home testing and a guide for quarantining and isolation.

After the initial allocation of kits, the program will expand, the state said, contingent on supply.