NEW YORK ( Associated Press) – President Joe Biden promised to distribute millions of free COVID-19 tests and open more testing sites to fight rising infections, but for those who want to find out, the phased efforts won’t come in time. If they are infected before the holidays.
Americans are searching drugstores for rare home tests or hours of waiting in cold temperatures at testing facilities across the country.
Jordan Thomas, who waited nearly four hours for a test this week in New York’s Brooklyn borough, said, “Not everyone can afford three hours for a test, but it seems like it’s the only thing we have.” has the power to do so.” Faridabad.
In Atlanta, drugstores ended home tests, and police closed testing sites because traffic was a half-mile or more. A drive-thru testing site in Columbia, South Carolina, which had for months faster lines than a Chick-fil-A restaurant, waited an hour or more the day before Christmas. Activists warned that results could take longer than the typical 24 to 36 hours.
Driving the growing demand for tests is a mix of factors, including families wanting to keep holiday gatherings safe and people needing to prove they are virus-free for travel, work or school. Adding to the pressure is the extra-infectious omicron variant, which has a manifold effect on the number of people who get tested after coming into contact with an infected person.
In the United States, infections average about 149,000 a day, up from 75,000 a day in early November.
“The increase in infections is very dramatic,” said Gigi Gronwall, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who has tracked COVID-19 testing efforts during the pandemic.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, testing can help ensure safety at gatherings, even if people do not have symptoms and have not been exposed to the virus.
“Do a test before you assemble,” agency director Dr. Rochelle Valensky said this week. O’Micron sparked spiking cases before the holidays.
But efforts to follow that guidance and meet the requirements of some employers and schools have hit testing capacity in many places.
Detjon Bushgajokj was among hundreds of people demanding testing in Everett, Massachusetts, north of Boston. He waited nearly 90 minutes after his 6-year-old daughter, who has not yet been vaccinated, tested positive after falling ill with a fever.
“As soon as my wife called, I left work and came here. I work with a lot of people and in different places so I need to make sure of that,” said Bushgajokaj, who has been vaccinated. He said that his daughter’s illness has added to the uncertainty in his vacation leave.
In New York City, drugstores posted signs warning customers that they had run out of testing. Lines wrapped around the block at some testing sites, with some saying it could take three to four days for results.
For the next day’s results, one site listed a price of $150. For the result in two hours, the price was $389.
Although the technology to process PCR lab tests takes less than a day, testing sites and laboratories face staff struggles like many other businesses, said Mara Espinol, who is a biomedical researcher at Arizona State University. teaches Diagnostics and is on the board of Orasur, a COVID-19. test manufacturer.
Manufacturers are working to increase supply. Abbott said it is seeing “unprecedented demand” for its popular Binex Now tests and plans to expand production to 70 million tests in January, up from 50 million this month. The company said that it may further increase production in the coming months.
Meanwhile, Walgreens said it is limiting people to four boxes per purchase in stores and online. CVS said it is limiting people to six kits per purchase.
In New York City, officials plan to hand out rapid home tests to people facing long waits at testing sites to help fuel demand. But the city is also having trouble securing tests.
Biden announced Tuesday that the federal government will begin sending 500 million free rapid tests directly to Americans in January for the first time. Details have yet to be released, but officials say people will be able to use a new website to order their tests, which will be mailed to them at no charge.
The government will use the Defense Production Act to help create more tests. New federal testing sites will also be set up in New York this week.
For months public health experts urged US officials to make testing more accessible, pointing to countries such as the United Kingdom and Germany that have distributed billions of tests to the public and recommending testing people twice a week. is of.
Experts say the latest efforts still won’t be enough for all Americans to get tested at that rate. According to the non-profit Kaiser Family Foundation, America will need 2.3 billion tests per month for everyone 12 years of age and older.
The availability of tests varies across the country.
At a city-run Children’s Day camp in Fort Collins, Colorado, boxes of rapid tests were available for free this week. The staff told the parents to take as much as they needed.
Still, the demand for testing is only set to increase post-holiday, when people would like to know if their travel and gatherings have led to infections, said chief medical officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officers, Dr. Marcus Plesia said.
Espinol said high demand is likely to persist through 2022 as people seek to resume activities they had given up during the pandemic.
“The fatigue of the pandemic has gone into, ‘I want to do what I want, when I want to.’ And the tests provide that knowledge and power,” she said.
Collins reported from Columbia, South Carolina. Associated Press writers Matthew Perrone in Washington, Philip Marcelo in Boston, Mike Sisak in New York and Mead Gruver in Fort Collins, Colorado contributed to this report.
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