COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Since Ohio purchased a batch of rapid COVID-19 antigen tests in January, it has distributed millions of kits across the state.
Now there are plans to buy and give out even more as everyone braces for a second wave of the delta variant and potentially the new omicron variant.
A spokesperson with the Ohio Department of Health said more than 3.5 million of these tests have gone out across the state, all free of charge for residents.
More than half of those tests are in people’s hands thanks to a system found in every county.
Ohio’s library systems serve as some of the hubs for COVID-19 rapid test distribution sites, including 23 branches across Columbus.
“A week or two ago, we crossed the 100,000 mark in terms of testing kits we’ve distributed, so we’re happy to be able to serve the community in this critical way,” said Columbus Metropolitan Library Spokesperson Ben Zenitsky.
It’s a duty local libraries have taken on since this spring.
“Started seeing a spike in that demand over the summer and that really peaked in October,” said Zenitsky. “We gave out 12,000 just in one week.”
Zenitsky said system-wide, the library topped that number last week with approximately 13,000 kits distributed.
The Ohio Department of Health said of the 3.5 million kits that have been given out, libraries have handed out the most, with approximately 1.4 million. Health departments follow libraries at just over 770,000.
“We’ve come a long way and I had hope that our community recognizes that and takes advantage of the tools we now have at our disposal to fight this pandemic,” said Dr. Mysheika Roberts, Columbus Public Health commissioner.
Before the Thanksgiving holiday, Columbus Public Health had a drive-through rapid test giveaway, handing out more than 35,000 in one day.
Roberts said the kits are valuable and necessary.
“We had asked ODH for more test kits for that event last week and they limited how many test kits they could give us because of their availability, so we’re excited that we should be getting more in December and we want to continue to offer those test kits,” she said.
Columbus Public Health hopes to distribute those kits until the end of 2021 because of holiday gatherings and events.
“I do not anticipate we’ll do it at the Celeste center again largely because the Celeste center has no availability for us between now and the end of the year,” Roberts said.
ODH said since September, the state has purchased 2.2 million more at-home tests, adding to the 2 million it purchased in January.
An ODH spokesperson said there are plans to purchase another 400,000 kits per month through June 2022.
“We’re out here at our Hilliard branch, we’re out a number of locations, so we’re doing our best to restock to meet the ongoing command,” Zenitsky explained about some library branches running out of kits.
Zenitsky asks anyone looking to pick up a test kit at a local branch to call ahead to make sure the kits are available. The library system has a shipment coming and hopes to have more test kits available soon.