Gov. Steve Sisolak during a press conference on Thursday said more than a half million COVID-19 at-home rapid tests are on their way to Nevada and will be provided to communities most in need. The announcement comes as COVID-19 testing sites have become increasingly busy with wait times up to an hour or longer.
The surge of omicron cases is to blame, Sisolak said.
“Through this case surge we have a matching surge in demand for COVID-19 testing,” Sisolak said. “I’ve been working with the team at the state level to ensure we are doing all we can to meet this demand for testing and more importantly build a more sustainable testing model for the future.”
Sisolak said additional testing would increase the reported number of cases in the state, but it would also give people confirmation if they do have COVID-19 so they know to stay home and isolate.
“The intention of this is to stop spread [of coronavirus],” said Julia Peek, an administrator with the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health, who joined Sisolak on the call.
The tests are being paid for with federal COVID-19 relief funds.
The first shipment of at-home tests is expected by the end of January. Sisolak said the bulk of the tests would be delivered to southern Nevada health and fire districts, health care clinics, libraries and community organizations.
Northern Nevada and rural communities will also receive a share of the tests.
Sisolak said more than 90 community partners statewide volunteered to be distribution points for the state-purchased tests. Additional at-home tests provided by the federal government will also be available in Nevada in the coming weeks.
The state also plans to order more tests following this first 500,000 order. Sisolak said tests were in short supply nationally and that multiple orders would need to be placed to meet the state’s needs.
Information on the tests, including when they arrive and where they can be obtained, will be available on the testing page at https://nvhealthresponse.nv.gov/.
The governor urged people to get tested if they believe they have COVID-19 or have symptoms, and isolate until they can get tested if they have symptoms. He also urged people to get vaccinated for COVID-19 and get the booster dose to increase protection against the virus.
Governor weighs in on Supreme Court vaccine decision
On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked a policy put forth by President Joe Biden that would have required businesses with 100 or more workers to require their employees be vaccinated for COVID-19. The court upheld Biden’s vaccine mandate for health care facilities that accept Medicare or Medicaid payments, however.
White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said the vaccine requirement for health care workers would cover 17 million people at 76,000 facilities nationwide, which was a win for the country.
Gov. Sisolak said the ruling for businesses was disappointing, but he still encouraged employers to get their employees vaccinated. He added that the state would not create a mandate for employers.
“We don’t want to force things through mandates,” Sisolak said. “Vaccinations are our way out of this.”
No additional mitigation measures planned
“We have no intention of any more additional mitigation measures moving forward,” Sisolak emphasized when asked about potential steps to help control the surge of COVID-19 in Nevada communities. “We don’t want to take steps backward.”
He encouraged masking, vaccination and booster doses to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Sisolak added that some businesses are taking additional measures, and he encourages them to do so, but that the state would not be stepping in with new restrictions.