As of December 21, more than 342,000 tests have been requested through the COVID-19 At Home Test program, yet only 116,000 have been used and returned for processing. This leaves more than 226,000 unused tests, sitting in Minnesotans’ homes.
Beginning December 18, Vault is emailing people who are holding onto an unused test, encouraging them to use the test, rather than hold onto it. They are asked to do one of the following:
- Take the test and send in for a result as soon as possible.
- Return unopened test kits if they don’t need them
Unopened test kits can be returned to any community testing site run by MDH. This includes the 20+ sites with Vault and the National Guard. Sites either have a collection bin or staff are instructed to collect the tests at the front desk. Anyone holding onto a test can return it to any test site – no name or reason needs to be provided.
Emails are going out in phases, to avoid the potential for a rush of tests being returned. We will be evaluating the number of unused tests still out there and reassess to determine any next steps.
The following talking points and Q&A can be used in responding to public inquiry or social media. Media inquiries on the topic should be directed to Kate Brickman.
There are many unused test kits sitting on people’s shelves across the state. We know many people ordered these tests as soon as the program was made available, to have a test on-hand in case they needed it. Still others ordered the test because they needed it, but then sought out a test elsewhere after delays in receiving the test during the initial rush.
But an unused test kit is not helping anyone! We’re asking people with a test to either:
- Take the test and send it in for a result as soon as possible.
- Returning your test is one of the best ways you can keep your loved ones safe and help our community fight the virus.
- Some people can be infected with COVID-19 but not even know it because they’re asymptomatic. Taking the test helps us find asymptomatic infections and slow the spread.
- Return the unused test kit.
- Unused test kits can be returned as long as they are unopened. Those kits can be returned in person to any community testing site.
With community spread as high as it is, the Department of Health actually recommends everyone get tested. Unless you’ve truly been in isolation for weeks, you’ve likely been exposed to someone carrying the virus at some point while grocery shopping, walking in your neighborhood, or picking up your children from activities. Taking the test you have on-hand right now can help gain peace of mind to know whether you’re carrying the virus so you can take proper steps to limit the spread to others in your community.
Q: Where do I return the tests?
A: Use the list of COVID-19 Community Testing sites to help people find the site nearest to them. Any site listed on this page can collect the test. If you don’t see a collection bin, ask anyone at the registration table. https://mn.gov/covid19/for-minnesotans/if-sick/testing-locations/community-testing.jsp
Q: The test says it doesn’t expire for two years. I wanted to have a test on-hand in case I suddenly needed one. Why do I need to return this test?
A: It’s correct that the tests don’t expire for several years. However, it’s not helpful to anyone – yourself included – to have an unused test sitting on the shelf. If you don’t need the test now, return it so we aren’t wasting supplies. If you do end up needing a test, you can order another one or visit any in-person testing location. There are many options for people.
Q: But the nearest place for me to get a test is an hour or more away, and my local clinic will only test people who are symptomatic. I’m worried that I won’t be able to access a test when I need one. And it took almost a week/several days to get this one.
A: We understand many people encountered delays or issues when they initially ordered the test from the at-home program. However, those issues have been addressed and tests are now delivered within a day or two of ordering. You don’t need to worry about not being able to order another one. The program will continue into 2021 and the system is smoother than it initially was.
Q: If I return a test at a community testing site, will it make it harder for me to order another test?
A: No. Returning a test has no impact on your ability to order tests again in the future.
Q: What if I don’t live near a community testing site? I don’t want to have to drive an hour to drop it off.
A: Then just take the test and send it back via UPS. Unless you’ve truly been isolated, there’s a chance you may have COVID-19 and not know it. So take the test for peace of mind and know you’re not exposing anyone in your community.
NOTE: Please help people understand they are not gaining peace of mind from having an unused test sitting in their home. If they want peace of mind, encourage them to *take* the test. Because ultimately, if they suddenly find out they were exposed to someone and “need a test right now,” chances are it would be too soon for them to take the test and have it properly detected.