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What Communities Need Now: Free Widespread Testing and Vaccine Distribution

Health officials are urging widespread testing to identify positive cases and slow the spread of COVID-19, the virus that infected more than 4 million Americans in November alone.

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Despite health official warnings, millions of Americans flew over the Thanksgiving holiday and millions more gathered in large groups for family dinners.

With a second wave of winter holidays quickly approaching – and even more travel expected – health officials are urging widespread testing to identify positive cases and slow the spread of COVID-19, the virus that infected more than 4 million Americans in November alone.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, typically a person develops symptoms five days after being infected, but symptoms can appear as early as two days after infection or as late as 14 days.

That means this week and next are absolutely critical testing windows for those who plan to gather with family and friends later this month, and most definitely for those who will travel to do so.

With diagnostic testing, people who test positive and have symptoms can get care earlier. Contacts can be traced, and self-isolation or quarantine started sooner to help stop the spread of the virus.

Winter is only beginning, as is the holiday season. And while hope is just within reach, it will be many months before the broader population has access to promising vaccines.

Communities must act now to offer widespread testing and prepare for vaccine deployment.

First, let’s dive into COVID-19 testing. After many months of testing across the country, it is clear testing should be:

  • Free: Make it clear individuals do not need insurance either.
  • Open to all: Individuals should be offered testing regardless of referrals, symptoms or country of residence.
  • Supported by technology: Leverage digital (online or via an app) to allow “touchless” scheduling, communications, results notifications and reporting without in-person contact.
  • Reliable: Testing results should be accurate and provided as quickly as possible, within 48 to 72 hours should be the goal.
  • Accessible: Testing sites should be in high-traffic areas and near public transportation routes.
  • Highly publicized: Spread the word about testing in your community by partnering with county health departments and the media and promoting heavily on social media, specifically Facebook and Twitter.
  • Secure: Personal information, including medical records, must adhere to all security and HIPAA guidelines, especially when sharing information digitally.
  • Reporting: COVID-19 results must be reported to localities, state and federal resources.
  • Compliant/certified: Testing should be conducted by healthcare professionals with results being developed in certified labs.

Once testing is established and running smoothly, communities should turn their attention to vaccine administration.

Currently, there are multiple vaccines awaiting emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, and distribution plans for front-line workers are in progress. While it will take much longer for vaccines to reach the general public, it is important for communities to begin planning for that rollout.

Here is how:

Use existing testing sites to administer vaccines. Coordinated testing and vaccine deployment is the most effective and efficient use of state resources. It is also the most user-friendly experience. The community will already know where to find them, how they work and what to expect.

Using existing testing sites that incorporate a healthcare approach provides for quick deployment. Unlike testing, vaccines must be administered by healthcare professionals who are already in high demand with the increasing numbers of cases. Testing sites already utilizing healthcare professionals will be able to seamlessly and quickly add vaccines to their offering.

As you look to add new locations specifically for vaccine administration, consider K-12 schools and universities. These educational facilities should have their own dedicated deployments for testing, as well as vaccine distribution. In the case of K-12, a mobile testing and vaccine unit would be ideal to reach all students and their families.

If it hasn’t been done already, now is the time to adopt a common consumer engagement platform to provide:

  • Consistent engagement and scheduling capabilities
  • Educational content
  • Ability to maintain social distancing with the ability to schedule appointments to avoid as much in-person contact as possible (Based on recent reports, the vaccine candidates may prevent one from getting sick, but it is unclear whether the vaccinated person will stop the spread of the virus, so masks and social distancing will continue to be important.)
  • Results distribution for testing, common reporting for localities, state and federal resources
  • Vaccine passport capability: A new concept, a vaccine passport, would allow an individual to show proof of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine through an app. Especially as people travel from state to state, their testing and vaccination information should travel with them.

In Conclusion

Unfortunately, COVID-19 will continue spreading throughout our communities until vaccines become widely available. Our only options right now are to follow safety guidelines, increase testing and prepare for vaccine deployment in 2021.

TourHealth is here to help.

TourHealth is a COVID-19 testing and vaccine solution created in partnership with NIC, Inc., Impact Health, Inc. and Next Marketing leveraging 80 years of combined experience and bringing together industry leaders in digital solutions, health care and logistics. Featuring online engagement, assessment and scheduling, as well as in-person clinical testing and logistics, TourHealth has tested more than 250,000 people across five states and is positioned to administer vaccines once they become available. Learn more at www.TourHealth.com.


Doug Rogers is the senior vice president of strategic initiatives at NIC Inc., a leading digital government solutions and payments company, serving more than 7,000 federal, state and local government agencies across the nation. Learn more about NIC at www.egov.com.
Doug Rogers is a senior vice president at NIC Inc. He has nearly 20 years of technology sales, marketing and consulting experience, including more than 10 years focused on the healthcare industry and on achieving value for federal, state and local governments.