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How To Get A Free COVID-19 Rapid Test In Northeast Ohio

photo of rapid COVID-19 testing kits
Cuyahoga County Public Library
A staff member at the Cuyahoga County Public Library hands out at-home, rapid COVID-19 testing kits at the drive-thru window on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021. Eleven of the library's branches are giving out free rapid tests through a partnership with the Ohio Department of Health.

With more entertainment venues, businesses and some schools now requiring negative COVID-19 tests, demand for testing has skyrocketed in Northeast Ohio, according to health officials.

Many locations are offering rapid at-home COVID tests for free, including health departments and public libraries, in partnership with the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), according to an ODH news release.

The Cuyahoga County Public Library system is giving out free test kits at 11 branches, and demand for the kits has significantly increased in the past month, said the library's communications and external relations director Hallie Rich.

“Last week, we ordered the 2,000 kits and blew through those,” Rich said. “We have another 3,600 that came in this week that I know we’re handing out a number of them every single day, and our plan is to order several thousand more.” 

The demand is increasing statewide. In August, 246 libraries across the state gave out 53,000 rapid tests, Ohio health officials said in a press release.

“We’re only going to see increased demand for these testing kits, which, they’re an important tool in our COVID mitigation arsenal,” Rich added. “We’re pleased that the state is providing the tests to public libraries to distribute for free to residents, because we know people need them.” 

The branches offering the free test kits include Beachwood, Garfield Heights, Mayfield, Middleburg Heights, North Royalton, Olmsted Falls, Orange, Parma, Parma-Snow, South Euclid-Lyndhurst and Warrensville Heights. Anyone can receive the kits, even if they don’t have a library card, but Rich said to call the branch ahead of time due to the increased demand.

The rapid tests are also available at the Cleveland Public Library.

Some health departments in the area are also giving out the at-home test kits. The Summit County health department has run out of rapid at-home tests due to high demand, according to spokesperson Marlene Martin. The department expects a new shipment Thursday or Friday, she said.
Since last week, the health department has given out more than 3,400 tests, according to a spokesperson.

The test kits are also available at the Medina County Health Department. The Cuyahoga County Board of Health is not offering them at this time, according to a spokesperson for the department.

All providers, health departments and libraries offering testing of any kind are listed in a dashboard on ODH’s website.

The state purchased 2 million Abbott BinaxNOW at-home rapid tests to be distributed at various locations earlier this year, the release states. To use the kit, individuals must download a smartphone app and administer the test over a telehealth session. They will know their results in 15 minutes, according to Abbott.

Rapid antigen tests are typically less accurate than the PCR tests given at pharmacies and doctors’ offices, particularly for people who are not showing symptoms, according to the Infectious Disease Society.
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