As part of their continuing commitment to help residents during the ongoing pandemic, the Burlington County Board is launching a new coronavirus testing program that will allow residents to get tested for COVID-19 without leaving the safety of their homes.
All Burlington County residents, students and persons working in the county will be eligible for the at-home COVID-19 tests under a partnership between the Freeholders, Vault Medical Services of New Jersey, the Rutgers Clinical Genomics Laboratory and the State of New Jersey.
Under the program, eligible residents will register online and be sent a home testing kit with instructions on how to collect a saliva sample and send it the Rutgers lab. Test results are expected to be returned within 72 hours.
“We know testing is among the most critical tools at our disposal to prevent the spread of this horrible contagion, and with more and more of our residents returning to work and school, demand for easy access testing is going to increase,” said Dr. Herb Conaway, the director of the County Department of Health. “At-home testing will help us meet demand with a faster, easier method. This is particularly important as the seasonal flu season approaches and people spend more time indoors and the expected increase in COVID-19 activity arises.”
Burlington County was one of the first counties in the state to launch a COVID-19 testing program when it began testing in March at a fixed testing site at the county Emergency Services Complex in Westampton.
To date, more than 8,000 residents and workers have been administered COVID-19 tests through the County’s testing program.
“From the very start of the pandemic, our board has taken a single-minded approach and mustered all our personnel, resources and energy towards helping our residents weather this unprecedented crisis,” said Burlington County Board member Dan O’Connell, the board’s liaison to the Department of Health. “We were among the very first counties to launch a testing program because we knew it would be essential for our residents’ health and safety. We feel the same about this testing expansion.”
Home testing program
Eligibility for testing is being expanded from the county’s prior testing clinics. All county residents are eligible, along with students and people who work in the county and interact with the public. However, children younger than 6 are ineligible for home testing.
Under the new program, residents seeking a home test should visit (www.homecovidtest.org) to enroll.
Residents should also have their health insurance card handy. Federal rules require the collection of insurance information to support the testing program. Under federal law, all forms of public and private insurance must cover FDA-approved COVID-19 tests with no out-of-pocket costs to insured persons. Lack of insurance will not prevent you from using at-home COVID-19 testing.
After eligibility is verified, residents will be emailed a testing code number and a link to Vault’s webpage to request a county-funded test kit. The kit will be shipped overnight with instructions on how to schedule a Zoom tele-health meeting with a certified health care worker who will virtually oversee and instruct the resident about how to properly collect a saliva sample for shipment to Vault and the Rutgers lab for testing.
Residents will be notified of test results via email within 72 hours, according to Vault, which has a similar home-based testing program established and running in Passaic County.
“We’re excited to begin this new partnership with Vault and Rutgers to offer home testing. We think this provides an easy and convenient option for our residents who need testing, either because of a work requirement or because their children have returned to school or even just for their own peace of mind,” Conaway said.
New testing site at RCBC
Besides the at-home testing, the County will partner with Vault to continue testing at a new fixed clinic site in Parking Lot 9 on the campus of Rowan College at Burlington County in Mount Laurel.
The college site is centrally located and is more easily accessible from major highways like Interstate 295 and Route 38. Moving the fixed testing clinic to Mount Laurel will also provide space outside the Health Department for the County’s walk-up flu vaccine clinics.
“Our COVID-19 testing program is one of the most important initiatives our County has ever undertaken, and we’re proud to have a willing partner like RCBC to help us make testing even more accessible,” Conaway said. “This is how governments are supposed to work together for the betterment of the residents they serve.”
“From the beginning, the Rowan College at Burlington County community has been a leader in Burlington County’s effort to protect ourselves against COIVD-19 – whether by donating medical supplies to front-line workers or our nursing students who volunteered at testing centers,” RCBC President Dr. Michael A. Cioce said. “Sharing our campus and hosting a testing center will benefit residents throughout the county as well as provide a convenient location for our students, faculty and staff who need a test.”
Testing at the new site will begin Tuesday Oct. 6 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Subsequent clinics will be held every Tuesday and Thursday during those same hours.
As with home testing, residents should bring their health insurance card with them on testing day due to the federal rules requiring the collection of insurance information to support the testing program. Under federal law, all forms of public and private insurance must cover FDA-approved COVID-19 tests with no out-of-pocket costs to insured persons. Lack of insurance will not prevent you from accessing COVID-19 testing.
Registration for the testing will be performed on site so walk-ups are welcome. Residents seeking tests are asked to wear masks. Because the testing will be performed on saliva samples rather than nasal swabs, residents seeking tests should not eat, drink, smoke, vape or chew gum at least 30 minutes before arriving at the test site.
The County and Vault will also conduct mobile testing clinics at locations throughout the county. Dates and locations for mobile clinics will be announced at a later date.
Funding for the County’s testing program is being provided by the State of New Jersey from a portion of the State’s federal aid from the CARES Act.
Burlington County received no CARES Act money directly because its population was slightly below the federal law’s 500,000 population cutoff for direct funding. However, Gov. Murphy’s administration agreed to send Burlington County $3 million of its federal funding for testing and an additional $565,000 in reimbursement for other expenses directly related to the health crisis.
O’Connell said the County has continued to deliver services residents need and depend on without overburdening property taxpayers.
“From free testing for our residents and distributing food and protective equipment to offering loans to help small businesses, our County has done everything possible to help our families and residents,” O’Connell said. “We’re proud of our response, and even prouder that we managed it without overburdening our residents. Partnerships like this one will allow us to continue that service and beat back this virus.”
Burlington County Board member Dan O’Connell speaks at a news conference Monday to announce the launch of a new home COVID-19 testing program and a new fixed testing clinic site at Rowan College at Burlington County.
Burlington County Department of Health Director Herb Conaway provides the details on the new home testing program and test kits.