When wealthy Blumenfeld was deciding what to buy for the Secret Santa gift exchange, he landed on something practical: an at-home COVID-19 test kit. “What could be a better gift than peace of mind?” Comedian Mr Blumenfeld, 38, wrote in a direct message on Twitter.
At the heart of their quip was an immediate concern: Coronavirus cases in the United States are on the rise once again as the delta variant has given way to Omicron, a highly contagious form of the virus. The surge has fueled the demand for COVID tests ahead of the Christmas break as families look for ways to gather safely.
Some have formed hours-long lines at local testing sites to receive polymerase chain reaction tests, the results of which, obtained in a laboratory, are considered the gold standard for detecting the virus. Many others have rushed to buy the rapid home test, leaving pharmacies and online stores short of stock. The frenzy for at-home testing has turned kits into a commodity and even made them coveted holiday gifts.
On Tuesday, President Biden announced a plan to fight the spread of Omicron, including distributing 500 million free rapid tests to the public, although it is not yet clear how the target number will be met. Various states, including New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts, also plan to increase access to free rapid tests.
Abbott Laboratories, which made headlines in August for destroying materials used in its tests, citing limited shelf life, said the company is currently making more than 50 million BinaxNOW rapid antigen test kits each month. In January, the company said, it would increase its production to 70 million per month.
“We maintained truly usable test components, many of which have been in short supply during the pandemic – such as reagent bottles, cardboard packaging, swabs, nitrocellulose strips and even paper labeling – so that we Get them in the event we needed them to scale back up, which is happening now,” company spokesman John Koval said in a statement.
Pharmacies have seen an increase in demand for at-home tests, most of which cost between $7 and $24. Some are starting to put limits on how many each customer can buy.
“After Thanksgiving and leading into the upcoming holiday week, we’ve seen an unprecedented increase in demand for rapid OTC COVID-19 tests nationwide,” a Walgreens spokesperson said. “Some stores may experience temporary shortages in rapid OTC testing solutions.” The four-item purchase limit on test kits came into effect from Tuesday, the spokesperson said.
An Amazon representative said: “At this time, we are facing inventory shortages on some COVID-19 tests due to increased demand” and that the company is trying to “secure additional COVID-19 testing inventory” from selling to partners. working for.
Similarly, a Rite Aid spokesperson said in a statement that “in many regions, demand exceeds supply from manufacturers.”
A Target spokesperson said the company is working with sellers to meet “strong” demand this holiday season. Representatives for Walmart and CVS said online inventory for test kits was limited. A Walmart spokesperson said the “inventory levels” in the stores were adequate.
Justin Vavrick, creator of NowInStock.net, a website that has been tracking the availability of at-home COVID tests since spring, confirmed the companies’ statements.
“I think a lot of the inventory has been transferred to the store,” Waverick said in a phone interview. “In-store pickup is where you’re probably going to have the best success.”
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Some are stockpiling the test kit, citing concerns about the Omicron version. Amber Decker, 45, a genetic genealogist in Columbus, Ohio, said she originally started accumulating a small stockpile of tests ahead of a trip she and her friends were planning for January. “I wanted to be able to ask everyone to get tested without asking everyone to spend money on tests,” she said. So whenever he saw test kits on sale, he bought them.
Ms Decker currently has 13 individual tests and has just ordered eight more. “We’ve used home tests several times in the past when we’ve had worrisome symptoms, but with Omicron, it looks like we’ll probably need to use them more often,” she said. But the cost of the tests “really adds up,” Ms Dekker said.
Last week, President Biden announced that private insurers would begin reimbursing people for home tests purchased over-the-counter in mid-January. But the upfront cost of the tests and the labor involved in finding them have limited their access.
Champaign, Ill. After visiting a half-dozen different pharmacies in the U.S. and arriving empty-handed, Cynthia D’Angelo realized that the top gift of the season isn’t a ’54 convertible or an NFT, but a test kit.
Ms D’Angelo, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who is also immunologist, said the university had offered free rapid testing to faculty and staff since last summer. But after making plans to move to California before Christmas, she decided to look for some rapid test kits of her own.
“I literally went to six different pharmacies, like CVS all in Walgreens and Champagne, and none of them had them,” Ms D’Angelo, 40, said in a phone interview. “The first place I went, if I had been there five minutes earlier, I would have found the last place, but I literally saw someone pick the last spot off the shelves.”
Luckily, a friend who lives an hour away has offered her some tests.
“I’m paying her back,” said Ms. D’Angelo, “but there’s definitely a gift that she was able to get them and bring them to me. And I’ll share them with my family in California.” “