With people returning to work and kids in school, the demand for COVID-19 testing has increased, especially for over-the-counter tests that give quick results. Pharmacy chains are limiting purchases and consumers are sometimes left scrambling to find out if they’re infected before deciding whether to go out in public.
Mary Cypcar of Racine experienced the demand for at-home COVID-19 tests first hand.
“I went to purchase an at-home rapid test at Walgreens before attending an indoor funeral service a few weeks ago and got the very last one they had,” she said. “The pharmacist told me they simply cannot keep them in stock.”
Since September, Walgreens has been limiting customers to four tests per purchase.
The pharmacy chain continues to see demand for COVID-19 testing across the country and is trying to keep up with demand by working with partners in the supply chain, said a spokesperson for Walgreens.
Meanwhile, clinical testing for COVID-19 continues at local health departments and at doctor offices.
The Racine area has a regular community testing site that runs two days a week as well as clinics that have daily appointments for rapid tests.
In Dane County, the south Madison testing location is operating at 80 percent capacity, with same day appointments and quick antigen tests available, along with PCR tests which need lab analysis, said Public Health Dane County & Madison spokesperson Morgan Finke. In what they hope is a good sign, demand at that location and more than two dozen other sites is starting to plateau.
Statewide, testing remains steady, topping 20,000 in the past couple of weeks. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services hopes to increase capacity by resuming a program providing free supplies and paying for collection costs of local health departments and others authorized to conduct COVID-19 tests.
The Community Testing Support Program will focus on parts of the state where vaccination is low, said Deputy Health Secretary Deb Standridge.
But many people like the convenience of buying quick test kits they can store at home and use when needed.
Recently the White House announced it plans to purchase millions of rapid at-home tests for COVID-19 in response to the national shortage of these tests.
“They are such a great resource to help asymptomatic community spread. We really should be ramping up production,” said Cypcar, who lost a brother to COVID-19 last December before vaccines were widely available. Both she and her husband are eligible for booster shots. Her husband has already gotten his third dose; she intends to get one next week.