Apr 20, 2022 - COVID

More COVID testing options now available

Two home tests

Reported cases are rising in Illinois even though most home tests can't be reported. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

COVID-19 cases are slowly climbing in the city and state, but hospitalizations and deaths remain very low.

Why it matters: Your chances of infection may be rising, but you probably won't get super sick.

  • This is especially true if you are vaccinated, boosted, and have a plan to quickly access testing and antivirals.

How to do it: The federal Test to Treat program, offering testing and prescriptions at the same drug store location, has improved since Monica tried unsuccessfully to access it last month.

  • It is now operating in several CVS locations around the city, although Advocate Health Care has not yet launched it at local Walgreens clinics.

The intrigue: You can also test and see a doctor from your couch with eMed-enabled tests.

  • At $25 a pop, they come with a QR code that connects you to a proctor who walks you through the test, certifies the result for travel, and reports it to the health department.
  • If positive, you can be connected to a doctor who can consult and prescribe medication during the same video call for free.

What they're saying: "These tests aren't going to end the pandemic, but they can help keep eyes on it," says Michael Mina, a former Harvard epidemiology professor who serves as the chief science officer for eMed.

  • "Now that rapid tests are in people's homes, we're encouraging people to use them in ways that actually provide reliable reporting."

Yes, but: Most home tests still aren't counted by the city and state. So local case data ends up reflecting those still getting PCR tests in public labs.

What's more: Local data is also highly skewed by massive school testing programs.

  • Over the week of CPS' spring break, Chicago's positivity rate went from 2.1% to 5.4%, likely due to the absence of 55,000 student surveillance tests usually mixed into the positivity pool.

Plus, student testing plays a role in Champaign County's classification as the state's riskiest place for COVID, says Champaign-Urbana Public Health District administrator Awais Vaid.

  • "I believe Champaign County is doing more PCR testing per capita that is reported to [the state] than any other county in Illinois," Vaid tells Axios. "Additionally, the University of Illinois required every undergraduate student to test upon return to campus after spring break."

The bottom line: Despite rising COVID case rates, preventive measures and some new resources for testing and treatment can help keep severe outcomes low.

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