Rapid Tests Should Be Free

Saige Joseph, Staff Writer

With the recent surges in COVID’s new variant, Omicron, rapid tests have been in high demand. All local stores are consistently out of stock and when new shipments finally come in, they are sold out within hours. 

The average rapid test costs around $25. The popular brand Binax NOW test kit contains two for the price of $23.99. In addition another brand Ellume goes for $26.10. 

With a minimum wage in Illinois of $12 that means that to afford a rapid COVID test it requires at least 2 hours of work. 

When COVID requires someone to stay home from work, they can fall into a devastating cycle.  

Most jobs require a negative test to return to work, so people have to purchase a test or wait for PCR results which can take days. During this time, many are left without pay, making the purchase of a test even more of a financial burden.  

These issues extend to students as well. 

At LFHS, if students have COVID, or have been exposed by a family member or friend, they need to be asymptomatic and test negative to return to school. The need for rapid tests is so essential that it can determine whether or not kids can attend school. 

Families have to buy more than one test, taking an even greater toll on financial stability. 

If someone can’t afford a rapid test, they are more likely to go on without knowing if they could be infecting other people or not. These numbers add up quickly.

Rapid tests should be free. 

On Monday, January 10th, the Biden Administration announced that starting Saturday, January 15th private health companies will have to cover up to eight tests per month per person. 

These tests from private companies are different from the four sent directly from the Biden Administration. 

He also announced that there will be one billion free tests available to the public. 

While this is a start, we could do better.

Even with the new policies, there is a limit of four free rapid tests that can be given per household. That is a great improvement, but it only lasts so long, especially when there are more than four people per household. 

Free tests were promised at the start of the pandemic. It is nearly two years into this pandemic, and we are just now making testing easier for people. 

Why has it taken so long? 

The tests do not just appear instantly. Steps must be taken to put these essential plans into action.

Even after these tests are distributed to the public, there is going to be a consistent need for them as the pandemic continues to evolve. 

As the world has seen in the past two years, this virus does not just go away. Even with vaccination rates rising, new variants are becoming more contagious. 

More contagious variants call for more frequent testing. 

Free tests should not just be a temporary last resort, but rather be a new normal. 

There is hope that the free tests will continue to work, and provide people with the resources they need. Rapid tests are not 100% accurate and so having more than one on hand is the best preparation. 

As the pandemic continues, the US should continue to do what is best for the people: make rapid tests free.