Walgreens, CVS working to keep at-home rapid COVID tests on the shelves amid surge in demand

LOS ALTOS, Calif. (KGO) -- Travel and holiday plans continue for many throughout the Bay Area, despite concerns over the omicron variant.

Dr. Jorge Salinas, hospital epidemiologist at Stanford, is encouraging people not to gather, but says he recognizes that many will not be canceling plans.

He says that given the rise in COVID cases in many parts of the country, knowing whether you are positive or not before you meet with people is critical, even if you're vaccinated.

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"The recommendation, in terms of getting tests to try to meet with others safely, is to do an antigen test, right before the meeting," Dr. Salinas said, "The bad news is that those tests have become a very hot commodity."

It's something one local mom who didn't wish to be named, says she can confirm.

She and her son had been looking for at-home tests for close to 24 hours, finally finding some at a San Jose Walgreens.

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"We started calling around, one place said online that they had it so I drove there in Los Altos, and they didn't have it so then (my son) kept looking online and found this store," she said. The drive took her a half hour.

ABC7 checked in with Walgreens, who sent this statement:
We've seen an unprecedented increase in demand for rapid OTC COVID-19 tests and are working with our suppliers to ensure customers have access to self-test kits through the holidays. Some stores may experience a temporary shortage in rapid OTC testing solutions. For consumers looking for specific items, Walgreens.com updates with the latest available store inventory information frequently throughout the day.

CVS also sent a statement:
We continue to work around the clock to provide our stores with inventory of the five over-the-counter at-home COVID-19 tests we offer: Abbott BinaxNOW, Acon FlowFlex, Quidel Quickvue, Ellume, and Pixel by LabCorp. In the event a store experiences a temporary shortage, our teams have a process in place to rapidly replenish supply. Due to a recent surge in demand, and to retain community-based access to tests in our stores, there may be temporary out-of-stocks for these products on CVS.com. We're committed to providing families with protection and peace of mind during the holiday season, and we continue to offer access to lab-based testing with results available in 1-2 days or rapid COVID-19 testing at more than 4,800 CVS Pharmacy locations nationwide.

It's not just at home tests that have been difficult to find. Some say PCR tests haven't been easy to track down last minute either.

"I tried to check all the Walgreens and the CVS and they didn't have any available slot for today and I found this one and it said no appointment," said Sailosi Latu, who plans to travel to Hawaii.

VIDEO: Should the COVID-19 omicron variant change your holiday plans?
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We spoke to Dr. Kavita Trivedi about whether you should adjust your holiday plans because of the omicron COVID-19 variant.



So, does it matter what test you get if you're planning to go to a gathering soon? Dr. Salinas says it's all a matter of timing.

"A PCR test could be helpful" he said, "But again, because the results take longer to come back."

Overall, he says that for now we have to implement the safety measures we've become all too familiar with since the start of the pandemic.

"We should all assume that we may carry COVID and be very mindful during social interactions," he said.

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