01STOCK_CORONAVIRUS01

Health officials are encouraging people to order and use free COVID-19 test kits issued by the government as health care resources remain stretched.

“Testing has been and will continue to be an important tool throughout this pandemic,” Rock County Public Health Department spokesperson Jessica Turner said. “We are encouraging people to take advantage of the free test kits offered by the federal government, especially now when home test kits can be hard to find. Although they are not appropriate in all situations, at-home tests can be a convenient and fast testing option.”

If people test positive on a home test, it is a good indicator they have COVID-19 and should stay away from others and notify close contacts. If they test negative, it means the test did not detect the virus and they might not have COVID-19, but it does not rule out infection. For a more accurate picture, it is recommended to repeat the test at least 24 hours later or seek a PCR test for confirmation.

“It’s especially encouraged if you have symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19,” Turner said.

She added there are additional testing locations and resources on the Rock County website at rebrand.ly /RCPHD-COVID-Testing.

There have been critically low levels of health care resources for the last couple of months. On average there is about 3% of hospital bed availability across the state and in northern Illinois, Turner said.

Although there is no local Rock County variant data at this time, in Wisconsin over the past 30 days, 80% of the variants identified have been omicron and 20% have been delta, Turner said.

The federal government has rolled out a website, covidtests.gov, for ordering free at-home test kits that will start to be delivered in late January. Every home in the U.S. is eligible to order four free COVID-19 test kits. Orders will typically ship in seven to 12 days, officials have said.

In light of the new federal offering, the Better Business Bureau has alerted the public to protect themselves from any scams.

The bureau recommends only going to the official website to request the tests. The site takes users to the U.S. Postal Service request page to provide their name and address. The tests and shipping are free.

The bureau says people shouldn’t give their credit card information to anyone. If people wish to provide an email address, they can get updates on the test order. People should not respond to any text messages, pop-up ads, emails or phone calls from those purporting to be affiliated with the test giveaway government program.

On Wednesday, there were 357 new cases of COVID-19 in Rock County, according to the Rock County Public Health Department.

The total number of cases in the county since the pandemic began reached 31,516 and the total amount of deaths reached 275, according to Rock County Public Health Department data.

There were 73 hospitalized Monday, down from 77 on Friday.

The percentage of the population fully vaccinated in Rock County was 63.3%.

As of Wednesday, the average new cases per day in Wisconsin for the past seven days has been 10,648. The seven-day average of deaths per day in the state has been 29 and the seven day average state positivity rate was 27%.

As of Wednesday, the latest data available as of press time, 58.9% of the total state population of Wisconsin residents had completed the vaccine series.

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