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Free rapid COVID test kits will be carried at Fairfax County libraries

With Omnicron likely to arrive in the U.S., testing is a valuable defense.

CHANTILLY, Va. — For people in Fairfax County, it will soon be a lot easier -- and cheaper -- to get your hands on a rapid home COVID test kit. Starting Friday, every branch of the Fairfax County Public Library will have a supply of home testing kits, and they'll be giving them out for free.

County officials ask if you have symptoms of the virus, contact the library in advance and pick your test up from the curb rather than going inside and risking possible exposure for other patrons.

"We're thrilled," Jessica Hudson, director of the library system, said. "It's so nice to have one more opportunity for people to get tested, stay safe and well."

Self-testing kits cost around $25 at a drug store, and several stores said they're having trouble keeping them in stock because so many people are buying them.

But the Fairfax Library said it's getting thousands of them for free from the state health department. Those who want one do not need to be a resident of the county, nor do they need a library card. 

Libraries in Alexandria and Anne Arundel County are doing the same thing.

Hudson said for some people, $25 can be a stumbling block. 

"And that's so much what the library is about," she said. "We're here to provide access to things you may not want to pay for or otherwise might not be able to afford."

The Virginia Health Department pilot program even includes a website where you can connect with a proctor to monitor and run you through the test.

The kits are rapid antigen tests, but under the FDA emergency use authorization, they have to match the gold standard PCR test results 90% of the time. Manufacturers also warned that the test won't indicate which variant of COVID a person has if they test positive, as that requires genetic sequencing. 

Library officials ask patrons not to take their tests inside the library, as masks are required in the buildings. Hudson urges anyone using the test to take it in the privacy of their home and using the help of the proctors. 

The kits will be available starting Friday, and it's recommended to call ahead to check availability. 

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