Libraries are the main proliferation of COVID-19 testing in Ohio – Community News
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Libraries are the main proliferation of COVID-19 testing in Ohio

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Since Ohio purchased a series of rapid COVID-19 antigen tests in January, it has distributed millions of kits across the state.

Now there are plans to buy and spend even more as everyone braces for a second wave of the delta variant and possibly the new ommicron variant.

A spokesman for the Ohio Department of Health said more than 3.5 million of these tests have been performed statewide, all free to residents.

More than half of those tests are in human hands thanks to a system found in every province.

Ohio’s library systems serve as one of the hubs for COVID-19 rapid test distribution sites, including 23 branches throughout Columbus.

“A week or two ago, we passed 100,000 in terms of test kits we distributed, so we’re thrilled to be able to serve the community in this critical way,” said Ben Zenitsky, spokesperson for the Columbus Metropolitan Library.

It is a task that local libraries have taken on since this spring.

“Started to see a spike in that demand in the summer and it really peaked in October,” Zenitsky said. “We handed out 12,000 in one week.”

Zenitsky said system-wide, the library surpassed that number by about 13,000 distributed kits last week.

The Ohio Department of Health said of the 3.5 million kits distributed, libraries distributed the most, with about 1.4 million. Health departments track libraries with just over 770,000.

“We’ve come a long way and I hoped our community would recognize that and use the tools we now have at our disposal to fight this pandemic,” said Dr. Mysheika Roberts, Columbus Commissioner of Health.

Before the Thanksgiving holiday, Columbus Public Health had a drive-through quick test giveaway, giving out more than 35,000 in a single day.

Roberts said the kits are valuable and necessary.

“We had asked ODH for more test kits for that event last week and they were limiting the number of test kits they could give us due to their availability, so we’re excited that we should be getting more in December and we’re looking to continue offering those test kits ,’ she said.

Columbus Public Health hopes to be able to distribute those kits through the end of 2021 due to holiday gatherings and events.

“I don’t expect to do it again at the Celeste center, largely because the Celeste center has no availability for us between now and the end of the year,” Roberts said.

ODH said the state has purchased 2.2 million more at-home tests since September, on top of the 2 million it bought in January.

An ODH spokesperson said there are plans to purchase another 400,000 kits per month through June 2022.

“We’re here at our Hilliard facility, we’re in a number of locations, so we’re doing our best to replenish inventory to meet the ongoing reorder,” Zenitsky explained about some library branches that have run out of kits.

Zenitsky asks anyone who wants to pick up a test kit from a local branch to call ahead to check if the kits are available. The library system is coming and hopes to have more test kits available soon.

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