NATIONAL NEWS

New hurdle for COVID-19 home testing — the holiday season

Nov 20, 2021, 8:57 AM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 4:48 pm

FILE: A lab technician works on smears for PCR tests for COVID-19 on Feb. 22, 2021. (Photo by Morri...

FILE: A lab technician works on smears for PCR tests for COVID-19 on Feb. 22, 2021. (Photo by Morris MacMatzen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Morris MacMatzen/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Millions more home tests for COVID-19 are hitting store shelves, but will there be enough for Americans hoping to screen themselves before holiday gatherings?

Gone are last year’s long lines to get tested, thanks to nearly a year of vaccinations, increased testing supplies and quicker options. But with many Americans unvaccinated and reports of infections among those who’ve gotten the shots, some are looking to home tests for an extra layer of safety ahead of this year’s festivities.

Janis Alpine of Seattle is getting together with seven relatives for Thanksgiving, including her 97-year-old father. While everyone is vaccinated, she plans to bring enough Abbott rapid tests for them to use.

“I’m just used to testing now,” said Alpine, who is retired. “Even though he’s vaccinated, just getting a little bit sick is probably not the best thing for a 97-year-old.”

She began testing herself regularly in September after flights to Las Vegas and the East Coast for vacation. Because local pharmacies sometimes sell out of tests, she usually buys five packs at a time when she finds them.

After weeks of shortages, chains like CVS and Walgreens now say they have ample supplies and recently lifted limits on how many can be purchased at one time. The shift comes after test makers ramped up production, spurred by more than $3 billion in new purchasing contracts and assistance from the government. Home tests are typically more than $10 each and take about 15 minutes.

Despite the improving picture, health experts warn that a winter surge could easily overwhelm supplies, especially if holiday gatherings and colder weather continue sparking new outbreaks across the country. And, they note, the U.S. is still far from having the kind of cheap or free widespread testing seen in some European countries that were early adopters of the technology.

“Unfortunately, we’re still going to be playing catch-up until next year or until demand subsides,” said Neil Sehgal, a health policy specialist at the University of Maryland.

White House officials say the U.S. is on pace to have about 200 million home tests per month by December, quadrupling the number from this summer. Still, spot shortages continue, particularly in cities and suburban communities with higher rates of testing.

“I couldn’t find them for the longest time,” said Denise Weiss, a retired musician in suburban Philadelphia.

She was able to snap up six tests online last month and plans to share them with family members, particularly her son and daughter who are traveling home via plane and train for Thanksgiving.

Market leader Abbott says it is back to producing 50 million of its BinaxNow tests per month, after slashing production last summer when testing demand plummeted. Only a few home tests are widely available nationwide with new ones set to launch, including from Acon Laboratories.

Much of the upcoming supply won’t be available at places like CVS, Walmart and Target. Bulk purchases by federal and state officials will be distributed to community health centers, nursing homes, schools and other government facilities.

Large employers and private universities are also buying up millions of tests. Under the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for large employers, workers who haven’t been vaccinated are supposed to get tested weekly starting in January.

“We have a little bit of a challenge right now and the math is not perfect” said Mara Aspinall, a health industry researcher at Arizona State University. “While having these tests on the shelves is terrific so people can feel empowered personally, we also have to balance where they are going.”

Under pressure from the Biden administration, the Food and Drug Administration has been clearing home tests at a faster pace, authorizing four of the 13 tests now available in the last two months. In an unusual move, the White House recently announced that the National Institutes of Health will help vet the most promising ones. But it will take time for companies to make and distribute the tests.

The U.S. made huge initial investments into vaccines, essentially betting that widespread immunity would crush the pandemic. But with roughly 60 million Americans age 12 and up still not vaccinated, experts say every region of the country is still vulnerable to the type of outbreaks flaring up in states like Michigan and New Mexico.

For testing advocates, the pandemic’s persistence underscores the need for rapid, widespread COVID-19 screening to quickly catch infections before they spread– an approach they have championed since the beginning of the U.S. outbreak.

Countries like Britain distributes billions of tests for free and recommend testing twice a week. If the U.S. took that approach for everyone 12 and older, it would need 2.3 billion tests per month, researchers with the non-profit Kaiser Family Foundation noted in a recent report. That’s more than seven times the 300 million monthly tests officials are hoping the country will have by February.

___

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

KSL 5 TV Live

National News

FILE - Former President Donald Trump listens as he speaks with reporters while in flight on his pla...

ERIC TUCKER, JILL COLVIN and MICHAEL BALSAMO Associated Press

Trump says he’s been indicted in classified documents investigation; Justice Dept. yet to confirm

Donald Trump said Thursday he's been indicted on charges of mishandling classified documents at his Florida estate, igniting a federal prosecution that is arguably the most perilous of multiple legal threats against the former president

22 hours ago

FILE - Drake poses at the Billboard Music Awards, May 1, 2019, in Las Vegas. Drake could make an im...

Associated Press

Drake, GloRilla, Lizzo, 21 Savage enter BET Awards as top nominees

Drake could make an impactful mark at the BET Awards later this month.

22 hours ago

FILE - Supporters of Senate bill 150, known as the Transgender Health Bill gather in the Rotunda of...

Associated Press

Dispute erupts over a section of Kentucky’s transgender law that hinges on one word

A new dispute has erupted over Kentucky's sweeping transgender law, revolving around one word in a section banning sex education topics — including sexual orientation — from discussion in classrooms.

22 hours ago

In this photo provided by the National Park Service lava spews from the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii, ...

Associated Press

As tourists flock to view volcano’s latest eruption, Hawaii urges mindfulness, respect

Hawaii tourism officials urged tourists to be respectful of cultural and spiritual meanings when flocking to a national park on the Big Island to get a glimpse of the latest eruption of Kilauea, one of the world's most active volcanoes.

22 hours ago

FILE - The Supreme Court is seen on April 21, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)Cre...

Associated Press

Supreme Court rules in favor of Black voters in Alabama redistricting case

The Supreme Court on Thursday issued a surprising 5-4 ruling in favor of Black voters in a congressional redistricting case, ordering the creation of a second district with a large Black population.

22 hours ago

The sun rises over a hazy New York City skyline as seen from Jersey City, N.J., Wednesday, June 7, ...

Jennifer Peltz, Rob Gillies and Michael R. Sisak

Smoky haze blanketing US and Canada could last into the weekend

With weather systems expected to hardly budge, the smoky blanket billowing across the U.S. and Canada from wildfires in Quebec and Nova Scotia should persist into Thursday and possibly the weekend.

22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Portrait of happy boy playing and splashing water in the swimming pool...

Get Out Pass

Family Fun Activities in Utah You Have to Try This Summer

These family fun activities will entertain you all summer, so if you ever feel stuck in a rut wondering what to do, refer to this guide!

Woman IT specialist in elegant suit working on notebook computer in data center next to server rack...

Les Olson

Your Complete Guide to Outsourcing IT Services

This guide covers everything you need to know about the different benefits of outsourcing IT services to meet your small business needs.

diverse group of friends dance outside under string lights...

Lighting Design

5 Frequently Asked Questions About Outdoor Lighting

Read for the most frequently asked questions about outdoor lighting to help narrow the search for your home.

Stack of old laptops with dark background...

PC Laptops

Old Laptop Upgrades You Need to Try Before Throwing it Away

Get the most out of your investment. Try these old laptop upgrades before throwing it out to keep it running fast and efficient.

Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...

BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.

Close up of an offset printing machine during production...

Les Olson IT

Top 7 Reasons to Add a Production Printer to Your Business

Learn about the different digital production printers and how they can help your company save time and money.

New hurdle for COVID-19 home testing — the holiday season