‘Tis the season to be jolly, and the Nevada County Public Health department is filling stockings with one of the most coveted gifts of the year: COVID-19 test kits. To promote safe gatherings this holiday season, Public Health plans to distribute nearly 6000 COVID-19 rapid tests to Nevada County residents with low income. The iHealth test kits, which were provided by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), can give holiday partygoers peace of mind.

“An at-home antigen test is a great tool for preventing the spread of COVID-19. It’s a do-it-yourself test. Results take 15 minutes. If you have a party in the evening, you can take your test that afternoon and know that you won’t infect your friends and family members,” said Public Health Officer Dr. Scott Kellermann.

The Public Health department will distribute the test kits to residents with low income in partnership with the Food Bank of Nevada County, Interfaith Food Ministry, and via the department’s safety net clinic in Truckee. “We continue to recommend that people take a rapid test before gathering, so we want to ensure that everyone has access to at-home test kits. We hope to provide these tests free-of-charge to folks who can’t otherwise afford them,” said Public Health Director Jill Blake. Residents can also purchase rapid tests at local drug stores.

In addition to testing, residents should take the following precautions this winter:

  • Get vaccinated. The COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective, and free for all California residents. Unvaccinated people are 7.1 times more likely to get COVID-19 and 15.8 times more likely to die from the virus. Vaccinations are our best line of defense.
  • Upgrade your mask. Choose a mask with good fit and filtration. A well-fitted mask has no gaps between the face and mask. Good filtration blocks virus particles from getting through the mask itself. N95 and KN95 masks work best.
  • Stay home if you test positive or have symptoms. Early COVID-19 symptoms can look very similar to the common cold. If you have a sore throat or the sniffles, don’t risk spreading COVID-19 to your loved ones.
  • Improve ventilation. Open doors and windows to keep air flowing and avoid crowded, poorly ventilated spaces.

Those who plan to travel to or from California should follow CDPH travel guidelines. All travelers arriving or returning to California from other states or countries should test 3 to 5 days after arrival.

With a 47% increase in case rates in California since Thanksgiving, health officials are bracing for a winter surge in COVID-19 infections. On December 20th, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified Omicron as the dominant variant in the United States. “We’re already seeing increased case rates throughout the country and it’s becoming clear that Omicron is significantly more transmissible than the Delta variant,” Kellermann said. “The good news is that we have the tools available to protect ourselves. Get vaccinated, get boosted, wear a well-fitting mask in public settings, and test before gatherings with family and friends.”

Go to www.MyNevadaCounty.com/Coronavirus for more information about COVID-19 in Nevada County.