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Unalaska is now distributing at-home COVID tests

Hope McKenney
A shipment of 200 tests from the state of Alaska arrived this week and is now available to the community.

Unalaska has received its first shipment of at-home COVID-19 tests, according to local health officials.

A shipment of 200 tests from the state of Alaska arrived this week and is now available to the community, said Megan Sarnecki, medical director at the Iliuliuk Family and Health Services clinic. The clinic was approved for 1,000 at-home tests – or 500 boxes of two tests each – from the state.

“We have distributed much of our supply to the library and [community center] today to distribute on a first-come, first-serve basis to the community,” Sarnecki told KUCB Thursday. “If we don’t need them for clinic patients, we will distribute more to the community. But the supply is sadly very small.”

Sarnecki said the clinic hopes to receive the rest of the state-provided testing supplies soon, and said it’s also applied to get more through the federal government.

The at-home tests should be used by anyone who has COVID-19 symptoms or has been exposed to someone who is sick with the virus, according to Sarnecki. But, she cautioned, the at-home tests turn positive later in the course of infection than PCR tests and can sometimes be falsely negative even when patients are symptomatic.

Community members should still go to IFHS or the APIA clinic to get a more sensitive PCR test, if possible, she added.

“We have worked very hard to get people same day results so [at-home tests] are less critical for our community, but still important as they allow people to test at home in a time that works for them with results in 15 minutes,” Sarnecki said.

The Unalaska Public Library received 40 at-home test kits Thursday, each with two COVID tests, according to librarian Karen Kresh. The community center has also received a small supply. Both places are handing out tests during their operating hours. At the library, each family can get up to two boxes (four tests) due to the limited supply.

“Anybody who decides that they need one can come and get one,” Kresh said. “We're not in the business of telling people whether they should take a test or not. We just have them available if people need them.”

But, she said, she’s asking that people just take what they need until more tests arrive since the current supply is so small.

Hope McKenney is a public radio news director, reporter, producer and host based in the Aleutian Islands, Alaska.
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