Marketed as an easy-to-use and convenient way to self-diagnose COVID-19, over-the-counter rapid tests are hard to come by.
The websites of Walgreens, CVS and other pharmacies list the brands of tests as not in stock. Even in Minnesota, where residents have easier access to free tests than neighboring states, rapid tests appear to be in short supply.
Dr. Amy Kargar, an associate professor of laboratory medicine and pathology at the university, said, “After going to a few pharmacies recently, when we were looking for some of those rapid tests, they were sold in a lot of pharmacies in Minnesota. Had gone.” of Minnesota Medical School.
The renewed demand for tests has made them difficult to find, amid a surge in COVID-19 infections driven by the coronavirus delta variant. In August the makers of a rapid test brand told The New York Times that demand was 1,000 times what it had estimated.
The Minnesota Department of Health cited the demand for tests in announcing the launch of two “semi-permanent” testing sites in Leno Lakes and Minneapolis last week. The move is in contrast to the closure of many state-run testing sites earlier in the summer amid a drop in new cases.
The testing rate in Minnesota, which helps measure the spread of COVID-19, still appears to be strong. Health Department spokesman Doug Schultz said in an email that the labs handling the tests last month processed between 10,000 and 30,000 samples a day.
“We don’t really know how many (over-the-counter) tests are being used daily in MN, but the comparison is not likely to be significant,” Schultz wrote.
Schultz said the health department “continues to conduct an evaluation to determine whether the absence of reports of at-home test results is affecting overall positivity rates.”
With the exception of the free saliva tests Minnesota provides, at-home tests are not usually reported to the Department of Health. Even a case reported by a doctor to the Minnesota Department of Health based on a patient’s results of an over-the-counter test performed at home, according to Schultz, would not be recorded.
“There are many reasons,” Schultz said, some of which have to do with discrepancies in information collected by test manufacturers, such as zip codes and dates of birth. “And we really have no way of validating the test result.”
A patient calling their doctor to report their positive result, on the other hand, will likely be asked to come in for a follow-up exam, Schultz said, although protocols can vary from provider to provider.
Kargar, who helped advise state officials in their efforts to test for COVID-19, had a similar approach.
“Generally speaking, the data that the Department of Health is collecting is probably going to accurately reflect what is happening,” she said. “Even if they aren’t necessarily capturing all tests in the state, those rates of positivity can see if we’re headed in the right direction.”
Test manufacturers and health officials still recommend consulting a doctor and alerting close contacts if you test positive on an over-the-counter product.