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Update: 32K take part in at-home COVID-19 testing trial in Hamilton County

Image by Christopher Hopefitch via DigitalVision via Getty Images.
Image by Christopher Hopefitch via DigitalVision via Getty Images.
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UPDATE (June 16th):

The Hamilton County Health Department now says 32,000 households are taking part in the at-home testing trial.

“It has been inspiring to see Chattanoogans from every walk of life come together to support and participate in Say Yes! COVID Test,” said Dr. Fernando Urrego, Interim Health Officer of the Hamilton County Health Department. “To everyone who participated, delivered test kits, answered questions or urged a neighbor to join the challenge, I want to say a heartfelt thank you on behalf of the entire community. We are almost at the finish line, so let’s keep the momentum going — don’t stop testing three times a week until all tests are used to keep Hamilton County healthy!”

Depend on us to keep you posted.

UPDATE (May 4th):

Hamilton County Health Department officials announced the new program on Tuesday, May 4th.

Watch their event below:

At that event, Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger credits -- or blames -- Hamilton County's excellent contact tracing for "inflated numbers," which put the county on the Center for Disease Control & Prevention's radar for the program.

Participants will get free, at-home tests to take 3 rapid tests a week for one month. They will be given gift cards for their time.

Learn more about the program here.

Read the full release from the Hamilton County Health Department below:

The Hamilton County Health Department today launched the Say Yes! COVID Test At-Home Testing Challenge, which provides households within Chattanooga and throughout Hamilton County with access to free, rapid COVID-19 test kits that they can self-administer in the comfort of their home. Say Yes! COVID Test encourages residents to use the tests three times a week, regardless of symptoms, to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and keep the community healthy.

“Free, rapid, self-administered testing will give Hamilton County residents one more way to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, along with wearing a mask, hand washing, staying six feet away from others, and vaccination,” said Dr. Fernando Urrego, interim health officer for the Hamilton County Health Department. “Many communities were considered, and only two were selected for this exciting opportunity. Our area can always be relied on for strong community support, so I expect that many of our households will rise to the challenge and Say Yes! COVID Test.”

The initiative is a cooperative effort from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and community partners, with state and local health departments connecting the opportunity to the local community. Researchers at NIH-supported University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University will work with CDC and NIH to use publicly available data to determine if the local testing efforts slowed the spread of COVID-19.

Rapid, self-administered testing has potential to disrupt the “silent spread” of COVID-19 that occurs when people are infected, but don’t yet have symptoms. Testing three times a week offers the best chance of identifying COVID-19 infection and isolating early. The COVID-19 test kits are provided free of charge, and the entire testing process can be managed privately at home. Tests require a quick swab inside each nostril, and results can be read in just 10 minutes. The maker of the tests, Quidel, is the same company that made the first rapid flu tests used by doctors’ offices in the United States.

Each test kit supports home testing three times a week for two household members. Individuals who have not yet received the COVID-19 vaccine or who have the highest risk of exposure to COVID-19, such as people working or going to school outside the home, are ideal candidates for participation, but anyone over the age of 8 is welcome to participate. The testing challenge lasts for at least a month, or until all tests are used. Test users can also choose to take part in an optional research study to complete surveys and earn up to $50 in gift cards.

Hamilton County residents can visit the website to order test kits for doorstep delivery or call the Hamilton County Health Department at 423-209-8383 for more information.

Test kits will also be available for pickup locally at the following locations.

  • CEMPA Community Care
  • Chattanooga Market
  • Dodson and Southside Community Health Centers
  • Hamilton County Health Department – 3rd Street
  • Junior League of Chattanooga
  • Hamilton Place Mall and Northgate Mall
  • Super Carniceria Loa
  • Ladies of Charity Thrift Store
  • LifeSpring Community Health
  • Pediatric Health Care Associates
  • Sequoyah Health Center

Visit to view days and hours of operation.

If you have questions about the Say Yes! COVID Test project, or want to find a distribution site near you, call the Health Department’s COVID-19 hotline at 423-209-8383. To read this press release in Spanish, visit our Spanish Facebook page at


Hamilton County has been selected as one of only two counties in the country for an at-home COVID-19 testing program.

Hamilton County residents can now sign up to receive free COVID-19 test kits that you can conduct in the comfort of your own home, beginning May 4th.

You'll give yourself the test three times a week for a month.

It's part of the 'Say Yes! COVID Test' initiative, a collaborative effort between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The goal is to determine whether frequent self-administered COVID-19 testing helps residents reduce community transmission of the virus.

A Cempa Community Care official tells us that this could help the fight against COVID-19 by providing more access to the community.

"One went deep in my nose, just the nostril, and then one was in my throat," said Chattanooga resident Christopher Cooper.

After receiving three COVID tests in the last year, Cooper says they can be uncomfortable at times. When told about the possibility of at-home testing, he says:

"If anything’s faster, I’m all for it."

Chattanooga resident Nick Rivers III had to wait three days for results when he first got tested for COVID-19. He says the wait can be a gamble when you don't know if you are infected or not.

"From my experience of a drive in testing site, it was very impersonal, there wasn’t anything bad with it. They shove a Q-tip up your nose and walk away and then tell you something three days later.

Cempa Community Care is one of the few locations still offering testing in Hamilton County. At the beginning of the pandemic, staff conducted the testing. Now, they let residents swab themselves.

This is something you can do from the comfort of your own home with the new testing kits.

"We had medical providers actually administering the swabs and now we're in a model where they're self-swabbing, so this seems like a natural step to offer that in-home testing," says Cempa Mobile Clinic Coordinator Loni Howard.

Howard thinks the community would respond positively if COVID testing was done in the home.

She says people are often nervous going to a clinic to get tested. Hamilton County resident Cozzett Dunn agrees.

"There's just an air of anxiety I think for a lot of people around testing," said Dunn, "And then when you add that to going to a clinic or a strange place when you're outside your home, it's just not going to be as comfortable for you."

But for Christopher Cooper comfort isn't his main concern.

I’ve lost friends and family to the virus so I’m all for it not to spread not to bring it home.

Along with Cempa Community Care, Clinica Medicos is also offering COVID-19 testing by appointment.

In a recent study conducted by the NIH RADx initiative, researchers found that rapid antigen testing at least three times per week achieves a viral detection level on par with PCR-based COVID-19 testing processed in a lab.

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You can sign up for the 'Say Yes! COVID Test' initiative here.

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