CAPITAL REGION – The proliferation of home COVID-19 testing is increasingly leading counties across the region to launch online portals where residents can report positive results themselves and automatically receive isolation instructions for relieve pressure on public health services.
Montgomery County Public Health Director Sara Boerenko on Tuesday announced the launch of an online portal where county residents can self-report positive results from COVID-19 home test kits.
The Montgomery County home page has a link to report home testing in red letters that takes residents to another page where the portal link is halfway through reading “REPORT YOUR POSITIVE RESULT.”
Residents can enter their information on the secure and confidential website for transmission to the Montgomery County Public Health Department. Then they will receive an automated report with isolation and quarantine protocols. The self-report site should only be used for positive home test results, not for tests performed in clinical settings or at test sites.
Boerenko said on Tuesday that the new portal will provide residents with a streamlined way to quickly receive counseling after testing positive using a home kit without having to call the health department. There is growing acceptance of the reliability of home testing and most residents will not need additional testing unless recommended by a doctor or required before returning to work by an employer. she noted.
This will make it easier for residents to determine how long their isolation period is and when they can return to normal daily activities much sooner than having to wait for a response from the seven county employees who receive more than 500 calls each. day about COVID-19, Boerenko mentioned.
Call volume exceeds infections. A total of 365 residents have tested positive for the coronavirus in the past seven days, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Boerenko said the idea for the portal came from frequent sharing with Saratoga County Health Commissioner Dr Daniel Kuhles and the need to balance the limited resources of the health department in anticipation of a possible influx of calls when the state’s home test distribution begins.
After seeing Saratoga County’s success with its already active online tool, Boerenko encouraged Montgomery County to launch its own portal. Montgomery County Director Matthew Ossenfort supported the idea and thanked county staff for its swift implementation in less than a week to prepare for the expected rush of home testing.
âThis portal simplifies the process and makes it efficient. That way people put in the information and get all the information they need, âOssenfort said. “If there hadn’t been a portal for tracking and processing this information, it would have been almost impossible.”
Concerns that health department staff could be overwhelmed as the use of home testing becomes more prevalent are not surprising given the experience of some counties in the region. Albany County Director of Communications Mary Rozak said the online self-report portal for home testing launched last week has already been used by more than 800 residents.
Albany County is encouraging residents who take home tests to report positive results through the portal and follow isolation protocols posted online. Anyone with symptoms is encouraged to call their health care provider. They shouldn’t call the public health department.
âThe simple fact is that the virus is spreading across the state and the country with an alarming number of positive cases,â Rozak said. âFor us, talking to everyone takes a long time.â
A total of 3,071 residents of Albany County have tested positive for the coronavirus in the past seven days, according to CDC data.
The rise in statewide coronavirus cases as the omicron variant spreads led to the reopening of a number of state testing sites on Tuesday, including two locally, one at Crossgates Mall and one on the SUNY Albany campus.
Rozak pointed to home testing kits as another tool to help identify positive cases and stop the spread. Providing residents with a method for reporting positive home test results is essential in order to accurately determine the level of infection in the community.
âIf there is a test, but no portal to relate to, what are people doing,â Rozak said. âOtherwise you have this situation where you can have a positive person and nowhere to report it. There was no agent for us to capture this. We created the portal so that there was a way, because there was nothing from the state that could record this. “
Schenectady County has also launched an online portal for self-reporting positive home test results accessible through its website.
UPCOMING HOME TESTS
While home testing was previously available for purchase, Governor Kathy Hochul’s recently announced plan to deliver home testing kits to school districts and counties for free distribution began this week.
Montgomery County has received 1,700 test kits which will be given to residents at four upcoming distribution events. The kits will only be available by scheduled online appointment. The first distribution will take place Thursday in the annex building in Montgomery County.
Although the kits are available to everyone in the community, Boerenko acknowledged that the county with around 49,000 residents received an extremely limited initial supply.
âI hope this is only the first wave of test kits being distributed, much like when vaccine doses were given and they were deployed in small quantities. I hope that is what they are doing with the test kits, deploying them in small numbers and that it will increase, âsaid Boerenko.
Boerenko pointed out that home testing is another tool to help prevent the spread of the virus that could be used by residents before attending a planned event or anyone who wakes up with symptoms.
âThey can determine if they are changing the course of the day based on their infection status,â Boerenko said.
Even as the distribution of the test kits began, Boerenko said the health department would continue to focus on immunizing the community. About 63.5% of the county’s total population is currently fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
Boerenko encouraged residents to take personal precautions to limit the spread of the virus, get vaccinated and discuss with their health care provider what actions are “best” for them. She declined to discuss the use of face masks, which has become a “controversial subject”.
âCOVID is here, it’s in the community and we need to take precautions to keep ourselves and our families safe. Tests and vaccines are two great impulses that we will deploy in our community, âsaid Boerenko.
Contact Ashley Onyon at [emailÂ protected] or @AshleyOnyon on Twitter.
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