Health Watch: State and Federal COVID-19 resources made available for Alaska residents

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Published: Feb. 9, 2022 at 4:53 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - With the current surge of the Omicron variant, at-home tests have been made available to order from the federal government.

According to Dr. Anne Zink, Chief Medical Officer for the State of Alaska, the goal is to make tests available to residents across Alaska to help curb the spread of the virus.

“We want to make sure that tests are available to all Alaskans,” Dr. Zink explained, “so that particularly if they’re symptomatic, if they’re not feeling well, they have an easy resource to be able to test themselves to see if they’re positive for COVID-19. Where and how and what type of test has changed quite a bit throughout this pandemic, and having easy access to home testing is an additional tool. We continue to work with FQHCs (Federally Qualified Health Centers) and school districts and others to be able to get out testing. During this Omicron surge, there has been a limited number of at-home tests, but the federal government has been providing at-home tests to those who order them.”

However, there are concerns around the shipping of COVID tests in the cold weather, so doctors recommended to carefully read the instructions on the tests provided to avoid potential misdiagnosis.

“There’s been a lot of questions about cold and freezing,” Dr. Zink elaborated. “Different tests have different temperatures that they were tested at. In general, we recommend trying to not freeze them if at all possible; but take a look at the box directions before you use them, [and] try to minimize freeze/thawing cycles. The biggest thing is when you start to use them, you want to take a look at the instructions and just read them carefully. So if the control line showed up before you used it, or if the control line doesn’t show up at all when you use it, it means that that test is invalid. So just make sure that people are reading the instructions carefully.”

And along with tests, N95 masks have also been made available by both the federal and state government according to Dr. Zink. “We did hear from some of our pharmacy partners over the weekend that they started to have masks showing up. So it doesn’t sound like they knew that they were coming in and we didn’t know that they were coming in. but it sounds like Fred Meyers and Carrs got some over the weekend. So we’re just starting to hear from some of those regions that they are showing up. I will also add that the state does have plenty of N95 masks and surgical masks, so people can contact their local public health center. Many of the public health centers already have those masks in place and people can go by and pick them up, and some regions are working at dispensing them in other avenues and venues outside the public health nursing center. So, feel free to contact your local public health nursing center to see if they have them or should be having them soon if you don’t have a federal pharmacy partnership in your region.”

The federal government is providing up to four tests per household, more information can be found on the official website.

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