Sep 23, 2021 - COVID
Colorado now offering free, at-home COVID rapid tests
A pile of BinaxNow COVID-19 tests
Binax tests provided by the state of Colorado. Photo: John Frank/Axios

Colorado is spending $16 million to purchase 2 million rapid COVID-19 tests and plans to start sending them to residents for free starting this week.

Why it matters: The new effort is designed to curb the spread of the Delta variant amid a fifth wave of infections that is threatening hospital bed capacity in some areas of the state.

  • But the Polis administration's poor track record on testing raises questions about whether this strategy will prove effective.

What to know: The Abbott BinaxNow rapid antigen test shows results within 15 minutes.

  • To obtain a test, residents must complete an online form and await instructions via email. The state will send eight tests at a time with more available in subsequent orders.
  • For school-age children, officials suggest twice-per-week testing.
  • A caveat: At-home rapid tests may not qualify as proof to return to school or work, officials say.

Of note: 100 free testing sites are scattered across the state.

What he’s saying: "The sooner that somebody knows that they have COVID and they are contagious the sooner they can take the steps to self-isolate," Gov. Jared Polis said Tuesday.

Yes, but: Whether tests are easily available remains unknown as manufacturers warn of delays nationwide and President Biden pushes a mass-scale at-home testing strategy.

  • State health officials tell Axios Denver the tests will arrive in incremental shipments.

The big picture: The governor's previous at-home testing effort encountered huge problems as the provider accused the state of botching the rollout and fewer people than expected requested the tests.

  • The state is still seeking reimbursement from the federal government for the initial cost of the at-home tests.
  • The new program is funded with federal dollars.

The Polis administration's other effort to boost testing in schools is also struggling to get off the ground.

  • It started weeks after students returned to class.
  • Now the Denver Post reports that just 22% of the state’s more than 2,000 K-12 schools are enrolled.
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