Access to COVID testing reportedly strained amid holiday season demand
With the approach of Christmas, New Years, and the increase in COVID cases, a large number of U.S. citizens who look forward to spending time with loved ones under safe conditions are seeking COVID tests.
FRIDAY: Fire stations in Baton Rouge have a limited supply of at-home COIVD tests from 8 a.m. - noon.
Need a COVID-19 test before Christmas? Stop by one of the fire stations listed below for a FREE At-Home COVID Test!— Sharon Weston Broome (@MayorBroome) December 24, 2021
Test quantity is limited to one per person and will be distributed from 8am-12pm while supplies last. Check the graphics below for distribution locations???? pic.twitter.com/Ngg3ZRgXeN
Can't see the tweet? Fire stations at 3142 Evangeline Street; 4025 Perkins; 150 S. Wooddale Dr.; 7380 Menlo Dr.; 3186 Highland Rd.; 835 Sharp Rd.; 555 Government St.; 4121 Harding Blvd.; 11010 Coursey Blvd. are passing out one free, at-home COVID test until noon Friday.
But, according to CNN, in some cases, the increased demand for COVID tests is overwhelming facilities that are already stretched thin.
The spread of the Omicron variant, which has become the dominant strain in the US, has led to the implementation of a host of new measures to combat the spread and to more people seeking COVID tests.
CNN reports long lines at testing centers in New York City, Boston and Miami as well as Ohio and Minnesota.
This is in addition to an announcement from CVS Health and Walgreens, the two largest pharmaceutical chain stores in the US,stating that they are limiting the number of at-home COVID kits customers can buy due to significant demand.
Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota says he expects the demand for testing kits to grow.
"We do have some testing. But what we're going to need, I think, over the course of the next two to eight weeks is going to be remarkable. We are going to see this big surge nationwide," he predicted.
"I think we are going to see all 50 states in the soup about the same time. And so, testing needs are going to go up tremendously," Osterholm said.
One positive aspect amid the development is that the Biden administration plans to provide 500 million new tests by next month.
US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said Tuesday, "What has happened is that we've seen, with the tremendous spread of Omicron, a big surge in demand for testing, and we've got to keep up. I certainly feel for people who are not able to find tests as easily as they want to."
Amid the nationwide increase in demand for COVID tests is a limited number of available hospital beds in certain parts of the U.S.
CNN reports that in Delaware, ChristianaCare Hospital is running over 100% capacity, often reaching 110-115%, said president Sharon Kurfuerst.
"There are patients receiving care in hallways because that is the only place we have to put them in the Emergency Department right now," Kurfuerst said.
She explained that many people who postponed non-COVID related treatments for nearly two years now need medical attention.
"That, compounded by the amount of COVID patients that we are seeing today is really straining our healthcare system and resources," she said.
In Ohio, six hospitals in the Cleveland area took out a page ad in the local newspaper Sunday, asking for assistance.
"We need your help," the ad said. "We now have more COVID-19 patients in our hospitals than ever before. And the overwhelming majority are unvaccinated."
Getting vaccinated is the most effective tool to prevent serious illness. As of Tuesday, nearly 62% of the US population have been fully vaccinated while just over 30% have received a booster shot, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Murthy, the US Surgeon General, reminded people that those who have been previously infected with Covid-19 and remain unvaccinated are not fully protected against Omicron.
"That's not enough to be able to come to a family gathering and say 'this is just as good as being vaccinated,'" Murthy told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "So if you're not vaccinated, it is more urgent than ever to get vaccinated. If you are vaccinated, please get boosted."
In hopes of thwarting the spread of the Omicron variant, many local officials are reinstating COVID-related health protocols.
In Louisiana, for example, Gov. John Bel Edwards on Tuesday extended Louisiana’s Public Health Emergency order related to COVID-19, including a provision allowing all state government agencies to require mask wearing.
Governor Edwards added that being vaccinated is one of the best forms of protection from the virus.
He said that around 50 percent of Louisianans have already been vaccinated, and more than 460,000 Louisianans have already taken a booster dose.
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