Travelers who arrive at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport this week will be able to pick up an at-home COVID-19 test between deplaning and grabbing their luggage.
Free, over-the-counter, rapid antigen tests will be given away through a pilot program in Anchorage, with the expectation that it will expand to other airports around the state, according to state pharmacist Coleman Cutchins.
At the moment, travelers can get tested through a PCR test at the airport, with results from a commercial lab returning in about a day. That testing location will still be at the airport, but is being moved behind security, where the rapid tests kits will also be available, Cutchins said.
The rapid tests can be completed at home and results show up in under 20 minutes, Cutchins said. But, he cautioned that if negative results appear, the second test in the kit should be used 36 to 48 hours later to confirm lack of virus since false negatives can show up in rapid tests.
“We’re at this stage in the pandemic where these over-the-counter tests that make access and equity and easier,” Cutchins said. “You don’t need to have a health care provider and it’s a good tool to have available at our disposal.”
The test kits, which can be purchased at pharmacies and grocery stores as well, will be much more readily available by early January, after the holidays, Cutchins said.
Recently, the Matanuska Susitna Borough and the Mat-Su Health Foundation rolled out a similar program, said Rene Dillow, public health nurse manager at the Mat-Su Public Health Center. Roughly 25,000 at-home rapid tests were distributed through the borough last week.
The tests were meant for more remote parts of the Mat-Su and for people who lacked transportation to get tested. They were given away through libraries, schools, food banks and by public health workers.
“People snapped them up within a week,” Dillow said.
Some people have already said they were able to isolate immediately after testing positive, Dillow said.
Juneau is also distributing at-home COVID-19 tests starting this Wednesday, according to a release from the City and Borough of Juneau. Test kits will be available at libraries and other public facilities, limited to test per family.