Mercer County now offering free COVID-19 testing kits

Mercer County residents age 14 and older and anyone who works in the county as a first responder or health care worker can now receive a free COVID-19 saliva test to be administered at home.

The county also plans to begin offering COVID-19 testing at pop-up mobile sites that visit different municipalities in the county.

The free testing kit program and the pop-up mobile sites are being administered through a partnership between Mercer County and Vault Health Services of New Jersey.

County officials said the saliva collection test they are using has the same effectiveness as the nasal swab test. It is not an antibody test. The saliva test is designed to determine if a person is currently infected with COVID-19 and has the potential to infect others. The home saliva test is performed under the supervision of a Vault healthcare provider through a video telehealth visit, eliminating the risk of person-to-person exposure to the virus.

“Testing for COVID-19 is necessary to identify and be able to isolate people with infections,” County Executive Brian Hughes said. “We expected fall to be a critical period with the arrival of cooler weather, and we’re already seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases throughout much of the state. I encourage anyone who is symptomatic or thinks they may have been exposed to the virus to take advantage of this convenient option of testing at home.”

Residents, first responders, and healthcare workers in the county seeking a test should visit www.mercercares.org to register. You will be required to provide proof of residency or employment. After your eligibility is verified, you will receive a digital 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 telehealth meeting with a certified healthcare worker who will virtually instruct you about how to properly collect a saliva sample for shipment to the Rutgers Clinical Genomics Laboratory for testing. Test results are expected to be returned within 72 hours. If your test is positive, or if you have symptoms, call your health care professional. Any questions can be directed to HomeTesting@mercercounty.org.

Officials said that when registering, people should have their health insurance card handy, but a lack of insurance will not prevent someone from using the at-home COVID-19 testing program. Federal rules require the collection of insurance information to support the testing program, officials said. Under federal law, all forms of public and private insurance must cover FDA-approved COVID-19 tests with no out-of-pocket costs to the person who is insured.