Mercer County offers free at-home COVID-19 tests

Mercer County residents age 14 and older, and anyone employed as a first responder or health care worker in the county, now can sign up to receive a free COVID-19 saliva test to be administered at home through a partnership between the county and Vault Health Services of New Jersey.

In addition, the county soon will begin offering COVID-19 testing at pop-up mobile sites that visit different municipalities, also in partnership with Vault Health Services.

The saliva collection test for COVID-19 has the same effectiveness as the nasal swab test. It is not an antibody test, but rather is designed to determine if an individual is currently infected with COVID-19 and has the potential to infect others. This test is performed under the supervision of a Vault healthcare provider through a video telehealth visit, eliminating the risk of person-to-person exposure to the virus, according to a statement provided by Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes.

“Testing for COVID-19 is necessary to identify and be able to isolate people with infections,” Hughes said in the statement. “We expected fall to be a critical period with the arrival of cooler weather, and we’re already seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases throughout much of the state. I encourage anyone who is symptomatic or thinks they may have been exposed to the virus to take advantage of this convenient option of testing at home.”

Individuals seeking a test should visit www.mercercares.org to register. Each person will be required to provide proof of residency or employment. After eligibility is verified, the person will receive a digital link to Vault’s webpage to request a county-funded test kit. The kit will be shipped overnight with instructions on how to schedule a Zoom telehealth meeting with a certified healthcare worker who will virtually instruct about how to properly collect a saliva sample for shipment to the Rutgers Clinical Genomics Laboratory for testing, according to the statement.

Test results are expected to be returned within 72 hours. If a test is positive, or if there are any symptoms of COVID being experienced, call a health care professional directly.

Any questions can be directed to HomeTesting@mercercounty.org.

When registering, individuals should have their health insurance card handy, but a lack of insurance will not prevent someone from using at-home COVID-19 testing.

Federal rules require the collection of insurance information to support the testing program. Under federal law, all forms of public and private insurance must cover FDA-approved COVID-19 tests with no out-of-pocket costs to insured persons, according to the statement.