Association of Mass Distribution of Rapid Antigen Tests and SARS-CoV-2 Prevalence: Results from NIH-CDC funded Say Yes! Covid Test program in Michigan

medRxiv [Preprint]. 2022 Apr 2:2022.03.26.22272727. doi: 10.1101/2022.03.26.22272727.


Importance: Wide-spread distribution of diagnostics is an integral part of the United States’ COVID-19 strategy; however, few studies have assessed the effectiveness of this intervention at reducing transmission of community COVID-19.

Objective: To assess the impact of the Say Yes! Covid Test (SYCT!) Michigan program, a population-based program that distributed 20,000 free rapid antigen tests within Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, Michigan in June-August 2021, on community prevalence of SARS-CoV-2.

Design: This ecological study analyzed cases of SARS-CoV-2 from March to October 2021 reported to the Washtenaw County Health Department.

Setting: Washtenaw County, Michigan.

Participants: All residents of Washtenaw County.

Interventions: Community-wide distribution of 500,000 rapid antigen tests for SARS-CoV-2 to residents of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, Michigan. Each household was limited to one test kit containing 25 rapid antigen tests.

Main outcome and measures: Community prevalence of SARS-CoV-2, as measured through 7-day average cases, in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti was compared to the rest of Washtenaw County. A generalized additive model was fitted with non-parametric trends for control and relative differences of trends in the pre-intervention, intervention, and post-intervention periods to compare intervention municipalities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti to the rest of Washtenaw County. Model results were used to calculate average cases prevented in the post-intervention period.

Results: In the post-intervention period, there were significantly lower standardized average cases in the intervention communities of Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti compared to the rest of Washtenaw County (p<0.001). The estimated standardized relative difference between Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti and the rest of Washtenaw County was -0.016 cases per day (95% CI: -0.020 to -0.013), implying that the intervention prevented 40 average cases per day two months into the post-intervention period if trends were consistent.

Conclusions and relevance: Mass distribution of rapid antigen tests may be a useful mitigation strategy to combat community transmission of SARS-CoV-2, especially given the recent relaxation of social distancing and masking requirements.

Publication types

  • Preprint