At-home rapid COVID-19 tests in short supply in Waco
Anyone waiting for a rapid COVID-19 test before Christmas travel and gatherings may be beyond the help of a last-minute appeal to Santa.
A spot check of Waco-area pharmacies and stores found supplies of rapid at-home test kits, which have results in 10 to 15 minutes, running short, if not out altogether.
The shortage comes as thousands of Waco residents start their holiday travels or plan on Christmas get-togethers with an intent to check for COVID-19 beforehand. It also comes as the more contagious omicron variant has started to accelerate the number of cases locally.
In the past two weeks, the rolling 7-day average of new cases per day has tripled, from 23 to 75, according to the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District.
The health district reported 112 new cases Thursday in McLennan County residents, along with one new COVID-19 death, the 14th this month. The number of active cases in the county has grown to 575, and local hospitals were treating 32 COVID-19 patients, including seven on ventilators.
Concern over omicron and a desire for safety at holiday gatherings have spurred many people to local testing sites or to buy over-the-counter rapid test kits. A steady line of drivers in several dozen cars and trucks awaited drive-thru testing offering rapid results at the YesNoCovid testing site outside Richland Mall.
Fast Med Urgent Care at 5400 Crosslake Parkway reported low supplies of its rapid COVID-19 tests and was recommending them primarily for people with possible COVID-19 symptoms. The website for NextCare Urgent Care in Hewitt also noted limited supplies of rapid tests.
Nationally, CVS stores are limiting customers to six test kits per purchase, and stocks for online purchases may run out temporarily to keep testing available at its stores, CVS spokesperson Monica Prinzing said. The pharmacy chain sells five brands of rapid at-home test kits.
The CVS store at 601 N. Valley Mills Drive reported Thursday it had sold out of its rapid test kits, and the CVS webpage to order kits online indicated it was out of the online stock available for its Waco-area stores.
A store employee at the Walgreens at 4100 Bosque Blvd. said it was out of the rapid at-home kits, while an employee at the 9101 Woodway Drive location said the store still had a few of its two-test kits for sale as of mid-afternoon Thursday.
H-E-B spokesperson Chelsea Fletcher said H-E-B pharmacies still had supplies of the QuickVue rapid test kit, but the BinaxNOW test was on back order. However, she said tests were “selling fast” and advised customers to call the pharmacy first to check on supplies.
Similarly, availability of at-home rapid tests at Walmart pharmacies varies on a store-by-store basis, and customers should check on availability at their store, spokesperson Lauren Willis said.
An increased statewide interest in COVID-19 testing comes after months of reduced demand following the second major surge in late summer. The Texas Tribune reported Thursday the Texas Department of State Health Services, which tracks COVID-19 cases, deaths, hospitalizations and vaccinations, would not be reporting those numbers on its website dashboard during the next two holiday weekends.
Those state numbers do not include positive results from at-home testing, but Department of State Health Services spokesperson Chris Van Deusen told the Tribune that the case reporting the state receives is adequate to determine the scale and nature of COVID-19 in Texas.
“If you look at the level of testing that is occurring, just looking at the last week, we have gotten an average of 100,000 each day for the last seven days,” he said. “That is, by far, enough to give us a picture of what’s happening with the pandemic in Texas. When you take a look at the cases, combined with the positivity rate, it gives us a real good indication of what’s going on. We’re seeing cases go up a lot. We’re seeing the positivity rate go up a lot.”
An absence of rapid COVID-19 tests or results will not change the long-running advice of masking, social distancing and vaccination, said Kelly Craine, spokesperson for the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District.
Several area testing sites still offer the slower but more accurate lab-based tests, Craine said. While cases are rising again, hospitalizations and deaths have not yet followed at a similar rate of increase, she said.
Unvaccinated people off work or out of school in the week between Christmas and New Year’s may want to get a vaccination during that time to start protection against COVID-19 when they return from their holidays, Craine said.
“Vaccinations are our quickest way back to normal,” she said.
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