Chain Reaction: COVID tests in short supply across Michiana
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- COVID tests aren’t immune from the global supply chain crisis.
Health officials say the shortage is both because of a surge in demand with omicron cases spiking and supply chain problems.
“To find testing in St. Joe County right now is almost near impossible,” Carrie Harrison said, a St. Joseph County resident. She and her son were looking to get tested for COVID-19 after visiting with family over the holidays.
But a massive winter surge of coronavirus cases fueled by the omicron variant has left tests in short supply across Michiana.
“It took me five days. I even contacted 211 and it was very difficult to find testing.” Carrie said.
It’s a nationwide problem that’s hitting Indiana hard. The state is now limiting eligibility for rapid COVID tests to those 18 and under and symptomatic individuals 50 years and older at state and local health department sites.
Ray Kadi, owner and pharmacist at University Commons Pharmacy in South Bend, says it’s been weeks since he’s been able to restock at-home COVID test kits.
“When the home-kit tests first came out, we had it all the time. Now there’s a big shortage,” Kadi said. “If we get paid a dollar for every phone call, people asking about home kit tests, we probably won’t have to sell medicine!”
Kadi thinks there’s a few reasons why there’s a shortage of rapid tests. Omicron cases are rising, an increase in demand over the holidays, and its flu season.
“This is flu season and that’s an issue. People sneeze twice and they think it’s COVID and they want to be tested,” Kaid said.
The Indiana State Department of Health does not supply COVID tests to pharmacies. They only provide testing to hospitals when they’re can’t get enough through their local supply chains.
A spokesperson at the health department says Indiana uses an average of 50 thousand rapid tests per week but right now, they’re only guaranteed to receive 11 thousand tests a week.
If you need a COVID test and can’t find one, state officials say if you’re symptomatic, it’s important to stay home until you can get tested.
“If you have symptoms in our area and you go to your doctor and decide you need to be tested, I do not think that there is an issue. I think tests are available if needed. But to walk in anywhere, and say I want to be tested, that’s probably an issue,” Kadi said.
If you need a COVID test to travel or if you’re not showing symptoms, it’s important to schedule tests days in advance or secure at-home test kits weeks in advance because of ongoing supply chain shortages.
Also, be aware of fake COVID at-home test kits for sale online. You should only buy at-home test kits from a physical store.