testing

A year into the pandemic, COVID-19 testing has become easier to get — just not necessarily cheaper.

If you go to the right locations, though, you can get a test for free instead of shelling out $100 or more.

For Kansas, sites that offer free testing are listed online, complete with information about wait times and booking.

You don’t have to show any ID or insurance. That eliminates the risk of a wrestling match later over billing.

Price tags matter, even when insurance pays

KMUW/File photo

Nearly two months after Gov. Laura Kelly announced that Kansas would develop a "unified" strategy to ramp up coronavirus testing, the program is enough of a work in progress that even some of the state's contractors don't yet have all the details.

LENEXA, Kansas — For months, the people at a Johnson County lab found themselves consumed, running an endless parade of tests on human spit.

The feds hadn’t yet OK’d a single saliva test for COVID-19, but the scientists at Clinical Reference Laboratory were sure they could design something that worked.

Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, is bucolic. There’s an abbey on campus, a prayer grotto, and statues of the Virgin Mary. In August, student body president Liliana Pokropski was relieved to be back on campus from her home in Wilmington, Delaware.

“Unfortunately, I was a part of the outbreak,” Pokropski chuckles through a mask decorated with the school tartan. “I was quarantined along with a huge portion of the students, and it was very shocking.”

Perhaps two in every 50 Kansans have antibodies swimming in their bloodstream that show they’ve had COVID-19.

That relatively low number — based on the assumption that blood donors reflect the broader population — suggests a gloomy reality. Kansas is still in the early days of this pandemic and it's looking at a future likely to bring many more cases than it has so far seen.

Phillips County Retirement Center got a coronavirus testing machine this month from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

But it will run out of the sample-collecting kits that came with the device on Monday, just one week after turning it on.

Twenty miles away, the county’s other nursing home is still waiting for its machine.

“It’s been a really big struggle just to even try to find out who knows where it is,” said Teresa McComb, who runs Logan Manor Community Health Services.

Before the pandemic, Wichita State University didn’t have a federally certified lab capable of handling coronavirus testing.

Now it does. And the new nonprofit outfit is gearing up to churn out hundreds of thousands of tests by the end of the year.

“I know that sounds like a lot,” said Tonya Witherspoon, Wichita State’s vice president of industry engagement, “but we think several labs in the state need to be able to do that much — or more.”

LENEXA, Kansas — One lab has helped seven Kansas universities test tens of thousands of students, faculty and staff for COVID-19 for the fall semester. And all anyone needed to do was spit.

Saliva lab work has the potential to dramatically increase testing of asymptomatic Kansans with no known COVID-19 exposure, state health officials say. That’s a critical ingredient for stopping the pandemic.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service/File photo

Kansas’ top public health administrator said Thursday that the state has reached the point of being able to test 2% of its population for the novel coronavirus each month and plans to send a mobile lab to communities to help with testing.

Chris Neal / For the Kansas News Service

Information’s great. But what about insight?

A fresh University of Kansas study contends state educators put too much emphasis on data and too little on the savvy and experience of teachers.

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