The Burlington County Health Department is suspending its COVID-19 testing programs until further notice amidst diminished demand and the wide availability of over-the-counter home test kits and other testing programs at pharmacies, urgent care centers and health care facilities.
The county’s rotating testing centers in Mount Laurel, Evesham, Florence and Pemberton Township will suspend operations as of July 19 and county residents seeking testing will be directed to other testing locations that are readily accessible, including the Federally Qualified Health Centers in Burlington City and Pemberton Township, where free testing is available to all adults and children regardless of whether they have health insurance, according to information provided by the county.
Burlington County Health Director Dr. Herb Conaway said the decision to halt testing would allow the county to focus its personnel and resources on its COVID-19 vaccination program and other in-demand services.
“Burlington County was one of the first counties in New Jersey to launch a testing program. We believed it was critical at the time because testing then was extremely difficult to access,” Conaway said in the statement. “Sixteen months later that is no longer the case. Conditions have changed and the utilization of our testing programs has declined significantly as testing has become easily available elsewhere. Because of this change, it’s best for us to put a pause on our testing program while we examine whether our personnel and resources can be better utilized elsewhere.”
More than 40,000 tests have been administered through the county program since its launch in March 2020 when access to testing was very limited. The program was later expanded to include a home testing option, mobile pop-up testing clinics and then multiple fixed testing locations, according to the statement.
Usage of the county program has dropped off significantly as vaccination rates increased and testing became widely available elsewhere. Last month, just 186 people were tested at the county’s sites, amounting to less than eight a day, according to the statement.
There are now dozens of locations were COVID-19 testing is now available, including most pharmacies and urgent care centers. Affordable, rapid home test kits are also now available for purchase at many pharmacies, according to the statement.
Residents looking for a testing site can search a New Jersey database of more than 400 locations at https://covid19.nj.gov/pages/testing#test-sites
State and federal law requires health insurers to cover COVID-19 testing with no out-of-pocket costs, and the Southern Jersey Family Medical Centers in Burlington City and Pemberton Township both offer free testing for residents without health coverage.
The two Federally Qualified Health Centers are located at 600 Pemberton-Browns Mills Road in Pemberton Township and at 651 High St. in Burlington City.
Conaway stressed that testing remains important and that residents with COVID-19 symptoms or who have had close contacts with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus should get tested, especially if they are not already fully vaccinated, according to the statement.
He said the COVID-19 vaccine is also now easily accessible for those who are still not vaccinated.
“Testing is still important, and there are still dozens of testing options for those who require that service,” Conaway said in the statement. “But the most critical action anyone can take right now is to roll up your sleeve and get a COVID-19 shot. It’s the best way to protect yourself and everyone around you.”