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Essex, Franklin counties receive rapid-testing supplies

The Essex and Franklin County health departments have received shipments of COVID-19 rapid-testing supplies from the state.

Results from these tests can come back in 15 to 20 minutes, according to senior Essex County Public Health Educator Andrea Whitmarsh. They can be used to help control new outbreaks or clusters.

This shipment of supplies from the state Department of Health includes three COVID-19 molecular test machines and enough supplies to conduct more than 1,000 tests, plus 800 COVID-19 antigen cards for Essex County. Franklin County has received three Abbott ID NOW instruments, 480 Abbott BINAX NOW specimen collection kits and 480 BINAX NOW COVID-19 ag cards for testing, according to Franklin County Public Health Director Kathleen Strack.

The shipments are part of a statewide initiative to increase rapid testing capacity. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Oct. 9 that the state would deploy 400,000 rapid-testing kits to counties across the state free of charge. Each local health department was asked to submit a plan to the state Department of Health outlining a plan for how it would use the supplies.

The Essex and Franklin County health departments submitted those plans and announced Monday, Nov. 2 they had received their share of supplies.

“We know that accessing rapid COVID-19 tests in Essex County has been challenging,” Essex County Director of Public Health Linda Beers said in a statement. “We’re excited to work with our health care providers to improve the availability of rapid testing, which will help us target specific populations that have the most need.”

Whitmarsh said the Essex County department is still working on specifically how, and where, the testing will be conducted. Beers said the department is looking to roll out the tests in time for peak cold and flu season, “when (they) feel it will be most needed.” Distribution of the supplies is happening now in Franklin County, according to Strack.

The county health departments’ announcements come on the heels of the unveiling of a new high-speed COVID-19 test lab at Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake, on the Franklin County side, last week. That new lab, which currently has the capacity to process anywhere from 80 to 160 tests per day, can process tests within 24 hours, according to Adirondack Health spokesman Matt Scollin.