The Burlington County Department of Health has suspended the county’s home COVID-19 testing program because of abuse and misuse by residents.
Director Dr. Herb Conaway issued the following statement on Nov. 23 regarding the suspension.
“From the very start of the pandemic, our Burlington County Health Department and, frankly, all of county government has taken a single-minded approach to responding to the pandemic and helping county residents weather this unprecedented health crisis.
“We were among the very first counties to launch a COVID-19 testing program because we knew it was essential for everyone’s health and safety to have easy access to testing when such resources were scarce. By providing that critical service, we identified people with infections and reduced the spread to keep more people safe.
“In October, we expanded our testing program through a new partnership with Vault Medical Services of New Jersey, the State of New Jersey and the Rutgers Genomics Lab. This expansion involved twice-a-week walk-up testing clinics in the parking lot of Rowan College at Burlington County in Mount Laurel, along with mobile clinics at locations throughout the county.
“Our October expansion also included a home testing option through an online portal and Vault’s mail-order system. While we were initially excited to offer our residents the option to be safely tested in their own homes, unfortunately the home program has not been properly utilized.
“Under the home testing program, residents were able to request a county-funded home test kit be sent directly to their home address. The kits were shipped overnight with instructions on how to schedule a Zoom tele-health meeting with a certified health care worker who would virtually oversee and instruct the resident about how to properly collect a saliva sample for shipment to Vault and the Rutgers lab for testing.
“The program was designed for homebound residents and those who were unable to travel to our fixed test site or mobile sites. Unfortunately, numerous people have requested the test kits but failed to return them with collected samples for testing, essentially keeping the kits until they decide they need them.
“Of the more than 2,400 home test kits requested and paid for by the county, only about 900 have been returned with samples.
“This is not how the program was intended to work, and it is expending testing kits and financial resources that could be applied to our other testing programs, which have succeeded in testing over 16,000 people since March.
“For these reasons we have decided to suspend the home testing program until further notice while we undertake a review of the requested kits and arrange for them to be used or returned.
“Those who already have home test kits can still use them and we encourage them to do so now for their own health and safety and the health and safety of those around them.
“We also want people to remain vigilant about mask wearing, avoiding crowds and following social-distancing and quarantine guidance. We all must do our part to slow the spread and stop this second surge of infections.
“We will start testing next week on Dec. 1 at our new fixed testing site at the County Human Services Building, 750 Woodlane Road, Westampton. Samples will be collected three days a week from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will done indoors to protect people from the cold and winter weather.
“As an additional safety measure, access to the testing facility will be very limited. Those coming to the site should expect to remain in their vehicle after arrival and await a testing alert sent to your mobile phone.
“All county residents are eligible for the testing, along with people who work in the county or attend schools here.”