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HUNTINGTON — Valley Health Systems received 5,400 at-home COVID-19 test kits Wednesday to be distributed to more than 40 West Virginia locations.

Following President Joe Biden’s announcement Tuesday that 500 million free, at-home tests will be distributed throughout the United States, Valley Health Systems was chosen as one of the 50 sites to assist in distribution.

“There’s a need for rapid testing for patients to be able to understand pretty early on in their disease process if they have COVID-19 or not,” said Dr. Matt Weimer, vice president of health services and chief medical officer with Valley Health Systems. “As we see increasing numbers, as we understand the omicron variant is coming and we expect an increase in cases, it’s really important for the public to be able to know what they’re dealing with and to be able to take appropriate action quickly.”

Valley Health Systems will distribute the at-home test kits to about 40 locations throughout Cabell, Wayne, Lincoln, Putnam, Mason and Kanawha counties in West Virginia and Lawrence County, Ohio, over the next week. After initial distribution, Weimer said sites will coordinate with Valley Health to determine how many test kits each location needs in the future.

The kits are most accurate when individuals are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and the test is taken within six days of first seeing symptoms, Weimer said. Each kit also comes with two tests, so people can take a second test 24 to 48 hours after the first test to confirm results.

Ashley Houvouras, director of pharmacy, said in addition to Valley Health locations, the medical center will reach out during community events to provide the testing kits.

Houvouras said Valley Health intends to work with Harmony House, Branches Domestic Violence Shelter, homeless shelters and more to ensure people outside of their patients have access to at-home tests.

Houvouras said it is important for individuals testing at home to still isolate and remember to call Valley Health with questions regarding COVID-19 if they test positive in order to reduce the spread.

“Not only are people able to monitor and test themselves at home, but it’s very important to still isolate and quarantine if you’re testing yourself because you’re not going to have that outreach from the health department,” she said. “So you kind of want to make sure you’re still managing yourself.”

Weimer also encouraged individuals who test positive to reach out to health providers to discuss symptoms that can be managed at home and those that could lead to a hospital visit.

“We want to really help patients find that balance between home management where it’s safe and not taxing our system too much and when it’s time to go to the hospital,” he said.

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