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Wyoming launches free, at-home COVID-19 test for all residents
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Wyoming launches free, at-home COVID-19 test for all residents

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COVID-19 Testing

Lab technician Sam Britz adds a chemical to deactivate samples of coronavirus so the lab can safely handle the samples for testing at the Wyoming Public Health Laboratory in Cheyenne Friday, Sept. 4. Any identifying patient information has been edited out of the photo.

A free, at-home COVID-19 test is now available to Wyoming residents.

The state of Wyoming has purchased 75,000 at-home saliva tests from Vault Health, using federal relief money from the CARES Act. The contract is worth $9.1 million, Wyoming Department of Health spokesperson Kim Deti said via email.

Gov. Mark Gordon in a Thursday announcement said more tests would be purchased as needed, though Deti said a specific dollar amount has not been earmarked for those additional tests.

“It’s one more way we can help protect our vulnerable populations, keep businesses open, and make sure our hospital beds are available to those who need them,” Gordon said in a release.

The new testing program gives all residents an avenue to be testing for the virus, without needing to meet certain exposure or symptoms requirements that some facilities have required for the cost of the test to be waived.

Under the new program, anyone with a Wyoming mailing address and an internet connection can access a test. But the state is not recommending all residents jump at the new opportunity.

“We do not recommend people use the Vault service if a public health representative has recommended they use another testing option such as the Wyoming Public Health Laboratory for their specific situation,” Deti said via email, adding that anyone who has tested positive in the last three months should forgo ordering a test through Vault Health as well.

Residents who wish to order a test can do so at vaulthealth.com/covid. Residents should then click the button on the homepage that reads “order your test.” The tests would normally cost $150, but once a Wyoming address is entered, the cost is waived.

Once ordered, the test is shipped to a resident’s address. The test is saliva-based and doesn’t require a nasal swab, making it easier for a person to administer themselves. But the new program also ensures the process will be virtually supervised by a physician through a telehealth portal. The cost of that telehealth appointment is also covered for Wyoming residents.

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The sample will need to be sent back to the Vault Health lab, and the person who ordered the test should have a result within 48 hours of the sample reaching the lab, according to the Wyoming Department of Health.

Positive results will be reported to the state health department, which will then follow up with that person to do necessary contact tracing.

The state also plans to launch an application process for businesses and community groups to acquire a larger number of tests for employees, according to the governor’s announcement.

The announcement acknowledges recommendations from the White House Coronavirus Task Force, which has urged states—not only Wyoming—to expand testing options to better manage the virus’ spread.

Far more people in Wyoming are being tested now than over the summer. In August and early September, the state lab was conducting an average of around 300 tests a day. In recent weeks, the state lab is averaging close to 700 tests daily. Private labs, too, have increased testing. Over the summer, non-state labs accounted for between 500 and 800 tests daily. Now, they’re processing upwards of 1,500 daily, on average.

As of Thursday, more than 115,000 people had been tested in the state and more than 204,000 tests had been administered between the state and private labs.

This new program is meant to supplement those efforts, according to the Wednesday announcement.

The University of Wyoming has also utilized Vault Health to conduct nearly 6,000 tests a week. That frequency will double starting Monday.

The state’s program launches as COVID-19 cases in Wyoming continue to climb. The state had maintained a relatively low caseload through the summer, but in the last four weeks, infections and hospitalizations have surged. As of Friday, there were 2,114 probable or confirmed active COVID-19 cases in the state, 1,500 more than a month ago.

Health experts nationwide have said an increase in testing for the virus will help identify infections before they turn into outbreaks.

Follow local government reporter Morgan Hughes on Twitter @morganhwrites

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Health and education reporter

Morgan Hughes covers health and education in Wyoming. After growing up in rural Wisconsin, she graduated from Marquette University in 2018. She moved to Wyoming shortly after and covered education in Cheyenne before joining the Star-Tribune in May 2019.

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