By Lynne Terry, Oregon Capital Chronicle
The Oregon Health Authority has stockpiled 2 million COVID-19 rapid test kits at its warehouse in Wilsonville, but does not know when they’ll be sent out.
It is waiting for requests for the tests, according to Jonathan Modie, a spokesman with the health authority.
The health authority ordered 6 million test kits from iHealth Labs Inc. on Dec. 28 at a cost of $60 million, which will be reimbursed by the federal government. The agency said then that they’d be delivered over the next five weeks.
The contract specifies Feb. 7 as the final delivery date but so far the manufacturer has only delivered 3.6 million kits.
“We’re continuing to receive weekly shipments from the manufacturer and are scheduled to receive our full 6 million tests by mid-February,” Tim Heider, an Oregon Health Authority spokesman, said in an email. “The manufacturer is about a week behind our initial delivery schedule due to airline crew delays, but they are working in good faith to fulfill our full order as soon as possible.”
The health authority has distributed 1.3 million test kits to hospitals, schools, county health departments, tribal communities, organizations that work with homeless people, groups that work with farmworkers and clinics that serve low-income patients.
Besides schools and hospitals, the agency is reserving the tests for organizations that serve racial and ethnic minorities and other individuals who have been the hardest hit by the pandemic.
State data show the tests have been distributed statewide, with about a third of a million going to Portland Public Schools and Oregon Health & Science University and Providence St. Vincent Medical Center in southwest Portland.
The kits contain two tests which determine within minutes whether a person is infected with omicron or another variant of the virus. They’re not as accurate as PCR tests, which require a lab to process, but they can be done at home and are considered to be fairly reliable in picking up an infection after the first day or two, when the virus is starting to multiply.
Modie said that the health authority started taking orders from community organizations on Friday and is working out details to ship to Head Start programs.
It’s unclear why the health authority has not received more orders. The agency didn’t respond to questions about how long the tests take to deliver. The state will not distribute the tests directly to Oregonians, unlike Washington state, which has offered free tests to individuals since Jan. 21.
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