Erie County legislature 'tables' decision to distribute free COVID self-test kits, health officials discuss how accurate

"The advantage of home test kits for COVID is that you can diagnose infection much more rapidly."
Self-test at home kits
Posted at 7:01 PM, Dec 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-17 19:01:29-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — A group of Erie County lawmakers are looking to expand COVD-19 testing resources.

This comes as the White House just recently announced a plan for free at-home testing for Americans.

Erie County Courthouse

Erie County is one of the worst counties in the entire country right now for COVID positivity. We know other places in New York State, like Monroe County, are having success with providing free rapid tests to their residents. New Hampshire is doing it across the state. Ontario is doing it now, in Canada, and New York City is starting to do it as of today," Erie County legislator, Joseph Lorigo told Pheben Kassahun via Zoom, Friday.

The Republican is coming off of what he calls a "disappointing" decision from Thursday's county legislative session.

"My colleagues across the aisle said 'no'. They wanted to wait, and I can't for the life of me understand why. I think it's because us in the minority who proposed it," Lorigo said. "We're not back for a couple of weeks. We have a re-organizational meeting January 6th and then a committee meeting January 13th."

Just this month, Monroe County began its free COVID home test kit distribution.

Courtesy: WHAM
Monroe County health and elected officials preparing to distribute COVID self-test at home kits.

"If everyone of us takes a COVID test before going to any holiday gathering, especially where we are indoors and potentially unmasked, a lot of infectious people will know to stay home instead," Monroe County Health Department commissioner, Dr. Michael Mendoza said in a press conference last week.

"People are gathering inside the holidays. We know that from the most recent data that New York State has, that that's where the vast majority of community spread is happening. It's happening inside people's homes. This is the perfect time to get those rapid tests into the hands of those Erie County residents so that we can help fight this thing," Lorigo added.

7ABC asked University at Buffalo Department of Medicine professor, Dr. Tom Russo about the accuracy of these home tests.

Doctor Thomas Russo said, "The advantage of home test kits for COVID is that you can diagnose infection much more rapidly. Rapid diagnosis can be an important mitigation measure for some of those that are infected. They can isolate more quickly, minimize some of the individuals that they interact with, and therefore transmit infection. Therefore, decrease the transmission chain and decrease the number of cases."

Given the ongoing, high community burden disease, if you test positive on a rapid home test, you almost certainly have the virus.

Monroe County, NY distributed these COVID self-test at home kits to residents, this month.

Doctor Russo said, "Although home test kits can be convenient, and more rapidly diagnosed infection, it's important to realize that they're not quite as sensitive as PCR tests. So, if you're symptomatic and think you have COVID, but have a negative rapid test, you may want to get a PCR test or repeating that test between 12 to 24 hours."

Lorigo said time is of the essence, and that the health of Erie County residents cannot wait.

"It's a disservice to the people they represent. It's a disservice to all Erie County residents. When we know these tests are a very, very successful tool, we should be getting them out there," Lorigo said.

Doctor Russo added that there are several home tests available in pharmacies across Western New York. He advises that people pay close attention to the instructions to properly administer a self-test, for an accurate result.