By Shereen Siewert

Starting Tuesday, Wisconsin residents can order COVID-19 testing kits online for in-home testing, state officials announced in a news release.

The test kits, made possible through a new contract with Vault Medical Services, are saliva-based kits available to anyone living in Wisconsin, with or without symptoms, at no cost.

Gov. Tony Evers said the kits add an additional tool to the Wisconsin COVID-19 testing toolbox.

“We believe that anyone in Wisconsin who needs to be tested for COVID-19 should have access to a test,” Evers said.. “We also know that getting to a health care provider or a community testing site isn’t easy for everyone, and that’s why we are excited to offer this new option to make testing even more accessible for folks across our state.”

Residents can order a collection kit online that includes detailed instructions and a video call with a testing supervisor through Vault Medical Services. Tests are then shipped back via UPS dropbox to the lab for processing.

“This is an important tool to provide easy access to COVID-19 testing,” said Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm. “As we roll out the COVID-19 vaccine to more Wisconsinites, we need to continue testing, contact tracing, and public health measures such as wearing a mask and social distancing.”

COVID is continuing its deadly march through the country, which is experiencing record high deaths.

But Wisconsin, including Marathon County, is continuing seeing a downward trend in new cases. As of Monday, 11,351 residents county-wide have tested positive for the virus, an increase of 365 over the past week. The death toll in Marathon County is 163, according to health officials.

Vaccines are also on the way and are giving health officials hope for a return to normal life, perhaps within months. Aspirus Wausau Hospital reported receiving 5,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine this week.

A saliva test is similar to a nasal swab test you might receive from a provider or at a community testing site. Like a nasal swab test, a saliva test determines whether you have an active COVID-19 infection and can spread it to others.