You can get free, at-home COVID-19 tests from Bethel Public Health Nursing
Free at-home COVID-19 testing kits are available in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. You can pick them up in person at the Bethel Public Health Nursing building or have them shipped out to your village.
About 1,000 at-home COVID-19 test kits arrived in Bethel in late November. Evelina Achee is the Public Health Nurse Manager in Bethel. She said about 300 of the tests have been given to the Bethel Winter House, and another 300 have been given to the Lower Kuskokwim School District. Smaller amounts have been dispersed to the Yukon Kuskokwim Correctional Center and other local organizations. The public can also get these kits from Bethel’s Public Health Nursing building.
“Just give us a heads up. Call before you come and we can meet you outside,” Achee said.
You can call Bethel Public Health Nursing at 907-543-2110. The building is located on Chief Eddie Hoffman Highway, next to the post office. Achee said that there are no limits on how many tests a person can pick up.
“Some families have a lot of family members, household members. So however many they are requesting, we can give it to them,” Achee said.
Achee said that the nurses also plan on distributing testing kits at Bethel’s Saturday Markets. If you’re outside Bethel, Public Health Nursing can send the testing kits to you. This option is available to individuals, and to organizations such as schools and tribal councils.
“If they wanted kits to be sent out to their villages, they can call our number and then we can ship some out,” Achee said. Again, that number is 907-543-2110.
The tests are paid for by a state grant and being distributed to public health nursing centers around Alaska. The brand available is QuickVue At-Home COVID-19 Tests, and each kit comes with two tests. If the first test is negative, the second test should be taken 24 to 72 hours later. If the first test is positive, there is no need to retest. If one of the tests is positive, Achee recommends taking a confirmatory test at the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation.
“This is so that people can isolate if one of the tests is positive, and then notify your close contacts,” Achee said.
Achee recommends testing yourself for COVID-19 if you have traveled out of state and are returning to the region, if you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, or if you have been in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. She also advises testing yourself before attending holiday gatherings.
“If you’re going to be around Elders or little kids, please do a quick test before you do a gathering,” Achee said.
Achee said that distributing the tests has been slower than she’d like. Bethel Public Health Nursing is severely understaffed. As the nurse manager, Achee is overseeing two other nurses, one of whom is working remotely. Right now, they have nine open nursing positions. She said that many nurses quit during the pandemic to move to the lower 48 to be near their families. Hiring has been difficult with health care organizations across the nation reporting nursing shortages.
“I’m trying to hire nurses, and if you know of any nurses that want to come to Bethel Public Health, send them on over here,” Achee said.
As a result of the shortage, Bethel Public Health has not been able to send nurses to villages during the pandemic. Before COVID-19 arrived in the region, Achee said that nurses would travel to communities monthly to provide immunizations, tuberculosis screenings, and health education. She encourages nursing students to contact her to learn about jobs in public health.