Iowa City City Hall gives away free COVID-19 test kits

In partnership with Test Iowa, Iowa City government is offering COVID-19 test kits in city buildings.


Jeff Sigmund

A free take home Covid-19 test kit, available at the Iowa City city hall is seen on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021. (Jeff Sigmund/The Daily Iowan)

Meg Doster, News Reporter

Iowa City residents can now pick up COVID-19 at-home test kits at City Hall.

Iowa City Communications Coordinator Shannon McMahon wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan that City Hall gave away more than 150 test kits in the first two days of the program.

Johnson County Public Health started distributing at-home test kits in August, after they received approval for use on July 16, McMahon wrote.

“We were giving out 300 to 350 a week,” Kristen Meyer, business manager for Johnson County Public Health, said. “And then, I’d say for about a month [we] had really high demand. It’s kind of calmed down a little bit.”

Meyer said the most surprising thing about the demand was that people wanted to take the test before going to college.

“We had lots of requests for these tests for travel,” Meyer said. “I guess that may have been just a little bit a surprise for us.”

Sam Jarvis, Johnson County community health division manager, said the county approached municipalities and public libraries for the program.

“Given the most recent COVID-19 surge that we saw, primarily due to the delta variant, the state health department recognized that there was a strain on statewide capacity for test kits,” Jarvis said.

The program is run through Test Iowa, the state’s COVID-19 testing program, a partnership between the Iowa Department of Public Health and the State Hygienic Lab. Before the test kits, COVID-19 testing was done through drive-through sites across the state, Jarvis said.

The test kits come with instructions about how to use them and where to drop them off, Jarvis said. The Johnson County Public Health website has videos in different languages explaining how to use the kits.

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After being dropped off at the sites, the samples are then tested for COVID-19, Jarvis said.

Meyer said the at-home test kits are more convenient because the kits take about a year to expire, are more cost effective, and safer than going into a clinic for a test.

“There’s no limit on the amount of cases that they can order from us,” Meyer said. “We do have about 13 to 14 different sites right now throughout Johnson County.”

“​​The at-home kits have a lot of benefits because, first we’ll be able to order those ahead of time and have those available when needed,” Jarvis said. “Primarily if they’ve been exposed recently or symptomatic.”

Jarvis said he is grateful to the community partners that have agreed to join the program and encourages people to have a test kit on hand in case they need a test done in the future.

The test kits are free of charge and are given out on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Johnson County Public Health has distributed an estimated 2,000 test kits, Meyer wrote in an email to the DI.

“We really don’t know what to expect in terms of interest, but we will keep distributing them until the demand is gone, or until Johnson County Public Health and Test Iowa discontinue the program,” McMahon wrote.

Meyer said the program will be using the at-home test kits indefinitely or “until COVID ends.”

“Can anything go according to plan with COVID?” Meyer said. “No.”