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On Monday, Governor Polis announced that Colorado has set up a first-of-its-kind At-Home COVID-19 Testing Program for Educators,  hand-delivering COVID-19 rapid test kits directly to the homes of Colorado’s educators in Arvada, Parker, Fountain, and Pueblo. The move is a catch-up for the rest of the state, and larger school districts, that Chaffee County doesn’t need.

“Chaffee County doesn’t need to go through the state program [for test materials] at this time because we are supplying [the schools] with the tests regularly,” explained Chaffee Director of Public Health Andrea Carlstrom. “We have ample supply.”

Colorado is one of only three states chosen to partner with Abbot BinaxNOW, with the goal of expanding rapid COVID-19 testing to further open Colorado schools, and the state’s economy, while successfully suppressing the virus.

Image courtesy of the CDC

“In-person learning is essential to the well-being and safety of our students, as well as the future of our economy. This is why my administration has worked to swiftly implement and responsibly fund an effective layered safety approach in order to get our students back in the classroom,” said Governor Polis. “I was thrilled to deliver these important tests to our educators today and to speak with them directly about how we can work together to overcome the unique challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. I delivered 11 of them and thankfully Amazon is delivering tens of thousands more.”

Colorado has purchased 2 million BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card test kits, to be distributed to hundreds of participating public and private schools across the state. The tests can be used for symptomatic individuals, for those who have been exposed to COVID-19, and for screening asymptomatic individuals.

Developed by Abbott, the BinaxNOW test recently received Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to be used with telehealth guidance, provided by eMed, for self-collection in individuals age 15 and older and for adult collection in children age 4-14 years. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has also forged a partnership with Amazon and eMed, one of the nation’s leading digital health providers, to bring testing directly to educators’ homes with a medical professional present through a telehealth appointment.

“Colorado is one of the first states in the country to receive these test kits and we are pleased to support Governor Polis’ vision,” said Dr. Patrice Harris, eMed CEO. “The ability to test a population, in this case the teachers, staff, and students of Colorado, for COVID-19 is one of the necessary steps, along with masks, social distancing, and vaccines, that will allow us to curb the spread of this virus. The fact that the BinaxNOW test can be self-administered at home with results in as little as 15 minutes, makes this process easier than ever.”

BinaxNOW testing is one important part of the layered school safety protocols critical for ensuring students are able to learn in-person,  including vaccines for educators and school staff, mask-wearing, symptom screening, ventilation, cohort isolation, quarantine enforcement, and social distancing. These precautions are detailed in the State’s Roadmap to In-Person Learning plan.

“Amazon is committed to assisting Governor Polis and the State of Colorado in this vital initiative,” said Gopal Pillai, VP of Amazon Fulfillment and Distribution Solutions. “Through Amazon Multi-Channel Fulfillment, CDPHE will store COVID-19 test kits in Amazon’s Denver fulfillment center and ship them with Amazon’s fast, reliable shipping directly to teachers, staff and selected students across the state, using a web portal. Amazon Web Services worked with the Governor’s Office of Information Technology to develop this system which integrates with Amazon’s fulfillment network to manage orders. Orders will be processed through the portal and received by Amazon’s fulfillment team in Denver to pick, pack, and ship tests.”

The Polis administration has provided more than seven million medical-grade masks to teachers in both private and public schools, delivered weekly to schools throughout the state, and this is scheduled to continue for the remainder of the school year. It has sent more than $15 million in grants to school districts and schools throughout the state for additional measures to increase COVID safety protocols such as outdoor classrooms and ventilation improvements.

The plan for the new BinexNOW tests is to distribute them across all Colorado schools before the end of the school year. CDPHE purchased the first two million test kits for schools for use just in February. Subsequent months will either be purchased through a cost-share agreement between schools and the state or may be reimbursed by the federal government.