Nevada has ordered more than half a million at-home COVID-19 tests to help address the demand for testing amid a surge of coronavirus cases, Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Thursday.
“We know that Nevadans want easy and convenient access to COVID-19 testing from the comfort of their own home, and this project will help us accomplish that goal and help relieve some of the strain on our other testing systems,” Sisolak said.
The announcement came in the midst of the current COVID-19 surge throughout the state, driven by the omicron variant. The highly transmissible variant now accounts for 89 percent of cases in the state, according to data from the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory.
The state, meanwhile, reported 6,845 new COVID-19 cases and 22 deaths during the preceding day, bringing totals posted by the state Department of Health and Human Services to 543,102 cases and 8,606 deaths.
As cases have skyrocketed, demand for testing has increased significantly. People going to large testing sites around the Las Vegas Valley have routinely been met with multi-hour waits, even after the largest site was moved to a bigger location at Sam Boyd Stadium last weekend.
“Right now, the waiting lines at some of these test sites go into the hours. People are waiting in their cars to get to the front of the line to get a test,” Sisolak said. “And I encourage people: If you’re feeling sick, if you think you’ve got symptoms, go get a test, go get in the line and wait. But once we have these tests in hand, once we have them and you can go in the comfort of your home and take the test and relieve the lines at some of the testing sites and give some folks peace of mind … it’s important we get these in people’s hands.”
The tests — initially 588,216 of them — will be distributed through about 90 community groups around the state, Sisolak said, noting that the logistics of that process are still being worked out. In acknowledging that there will probably be lots of demand for the tests as soon as they are available, he said the state will continue to look for ways to get more.
State officials continued Thursday to urge Nevadans to get tested and to isolate if they receive a positive test. People who test positive should reach out to public health agencies to find available treatments, said Julia Peek, deputy administrator for the state Division of Public and Behavioral Health.
“The intention of all of this is to stop spread but also to identify those people who may have severity in their disease and to keep them out of the hospital,” she said.
Officials continue to urge people not to go to hospital emergency rooms in search of COVID-19 tests, an issue that is contributing to growing concerns about hospital capacity. The number of people in Nevada hospitalized with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases decreased to 1,623 on Thursday, three fewer than Wednesday.
Clark County this week opened two additional testing sites, which should help alleviate some of the strain on the testing ecosystem, said Cassius Lockett, director of disease surveillance and control for the Southern Nevada Health District.
The site at Texas Station conducted over 1,000 tests during its opening Wednesday, Lockett said, adding that each new site is now equipped to conduct 2,000 to 4,000 tests each day.
The Sam Boyd Stadium site performed over 2,000 tests during its opening Sunday, more than the highest number conducted in a single day at its predecessor at UNLV’s Paradise campus.
“We think the three of these major drive-thru facilities will help accommodate testing demand, but I will acknowledge it may continue to be a challenge if the test positivity rate remains extremely high,” Lockett said.