The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) will be distributing 1 million over-the-counter (OTC) COVID-19 rapid antigen tests to residents in economically disadvantaged zip codes outside the City of Chicago through a partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation’s public charity, RF Catalytic Capital and its Project ACT (Access COVID Tests) program.
The announcement comes as the CDC released data showing that 31counties in Illinois are at an elevated Community Level for COVID-19, with all of those at the Medium level. IDPH is reporting 14,225 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 in Illinois, and 54 deaths since Oct. 28.
“COVID-19 tests remain a critical tool that can help limit the spread of the virus,” said IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra. “A positive test early in the course of your illness allows you to protect yourself by providing an opportunity to seek treatment earlier, likely reducing severe disease. A positive test also allows you to protect your loved ones and community by knowing when to stay home and not spread the disease to others. We are grateful to the Rockefeller Foundation for partnering with us to make it possible for thousands of families in Illinois to have free access to at-home tests.”
Vohrar is also strongly recommending that all Illinoisans protect themselves by getting fully up-to-date with a COVID-19 bivalent booster shot and a flu shot ahead of the winter respiratory virus season and the holidays. Director Vohra recently got both his COVID-19 booster shot and his flu shot at the same time and urges another Illinoisans to do the same.
Through the Project ACT program, IDPH will be distributing one million at-home antigen tests to 200,000 Illinois families in zip codes outside the City of Chicago that are rated high on a Social Vulnerability Index (SVI). Households can find out if they are in an eligible zip code and request one package of five tests on a first-come-first-serve basis at the Project ACT website. The tests will be delivered to the home address.
Free COVID-19 testing locations are available throughout the state, including in Chicago, and can be found on the IDPH website’s testing locator page.
IDPH reported that over the last week, large numbers of Illinoisans are continuing to receive the new bivalent boosters, with an average of more than 25,000 doses of the updated vaccines administered across the state each day.
The CDC authorized two new bivalent booster vaccines on September 1 that include an mRNA component of the original strain to provide an immune response that is broadly protective against COVID-19 and an added mRNA component in common between the omicron variant BA.4 and BA.5 lineages to provide better protection against COVID-19 caused by the omicron variant.
Initially, the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine, Bivalent, was authorized for use as a single booster dose in individuals 18 years of age and older and the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, Bivalent, was authorized for use as a single booster dose in individuals 12 years of age and older. On Oct. 12, the CDC authorized the updated COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech for children ages 5 through 11 years, and from Moderna for children and adolescents ages 6 through 17 years.
The updated boosters are available at pharmacies, hospitals, and other healthcare providers. The best way to locate a vaccine provider near you is to visit www.vaccines.gov and search for bivalent booster availability.