The holidays brought a boom-and-bust cycle on availability of rapid, at-home Covid-19 tests. Town officials have been trying to hand out free kits to residents while pharmacies have been selling them for up to $25. Either way, keeping tests in stock is the problem. Here’s the situation as of Tuesday, Dec. 28. Though the landscape may have shifted by the time you read this, below are places to keep on your radar as shipments filter in.
At-home tests serve primarily as an initial screening. Positive results should be promptly followed up with a more accurate PCR test.
Town hall offered rapid, at-home tests to all on Tuesday, Dec. 21 — for two hours. Town residents claimed all 180 that morning, and the town’s stock, according to Assistant Town Manager David Gardner, was emptied. Officials are working on securing more kits from the county.
The town’s stash consisted of kits that remained from the 4,800 issued by the county during the July cluster, said Health Agent Lezli Rowell. The kits were due to expire on Dec. 17, so “we allowed folks who came in last week to take as many tests or boxes as they felt comfortable using with the known expiration date, rather than discard them,” Rowell said.
The supply at CVS Pharmacy ran out swiftly before Christmas. On Dec. 26, the branch was restocked. Shoppers were limited to six kits per purchase to ensure equitable access, said Joe Goode, CVS senior communication director. But as of Dec. 28, this limit dropped to just one kit per person. Each unit costs $24.99.
If you find that at-home kits are “out of stock” on CVS’s online store, you should still check a local branch. Online availability may not reflect the stock in your neighborhood pharmacy, which might have kits on hand. Temporarily curbing web purchases through “out-of-stock” designations, Goode said, is part of CVS’s effort to retain community-based access to tests.
Meanwhile, at the Stop & Shop, tests have been sold out for “at least a month,” said pharmacy manager Arthur Januario. When future shipments arrive, Januario said, the store “will be imposing a limit of one per person.”
“That’s the new toilet paper,” he said — a comment on shoppers’ compulsion to load up in advance of need.
Neither Adams Pharmacy nor Essentials carry at-home Covid-19 tests. —Michaela Chesin and Abbey Dwight
Truro is currently in the midst of what Emily Beebe, the town’s health agent, calls an “absence of tests.”
“We have communicated our need for rapid home test kits to the state,” she said, but the town doesn’t expect to receive any until early January.
This summer, Truro, like Provincetown, secured some kits from Barnstable County to distribute to local businesses. Residents, however, did not receive any. Since then, Beebe, alongside health agents from Provincetown and Wellfleet, have been advocating for “further distribution of test kits,” she said, “but have not yet been successful.” —Jasmine Lu
The town’s health and conservation department has not provided kits at Town Hall for a few months.
At the Outer Cape Health Services Pharmacy here, as well as in Provincetown and Harwich Port, at-home kits have been “back-ordered indefinitely through our regular medical supplier,” according to Matthew Libby, OCHS’s chief clinical operations officer.
OCHS is taking steps to provide free Quidel QuickVue at-home test kits to its patients at their regularly scheduled appointments by taking part in the federal government’s Covid-19 Testing Supply Program. Introduced Dec. 15, this is a joint effort of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services and the Dept. of Defense.
“We expect an initial shipment of test kits to arrive in early January,” wrote Libby. “In the weeks ahead, we also hope to receive a larger supply for community distribution. Once that inventory is in hand, we will announce an access plan for the Outer Cape communities.”
Those with symptoms can schedule a PCR test on a Tuesday or Thursday in the Wellfleet office from 10 to 11 a.m. In Provincetown, these sessions are offered Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.
OCHS does not offer testing for patients going into surgery or planning to travel. Its website recommends scheduling directly with Quest Diagnostics, Cape Cod Hospital, or for preoperative patients, the hospital where they will undergo surgery. —Abbey Dwight and Michaela Chesin
Earlier this month, the Baker-Polito administration announced they would be distributing 2.1 million tests to 102 Massachusetts communities with the highest proportion of residents living at or below the federal poverty level. On Dec. 20, Eastham distributed 810 rapid at-home tests.
Town health agent Jane Crowley could not be reached for comment by deadline. —Cam Blair
Orleans was another town that received tests from the Dec. 20 state-issued stock. Alexandra Fitch, the town’s health agent, could not be reached for comment regarding this rollout.
Both CVS Pharmacies in town, one located in Skaket Corners Plaza and another on Main Street, were stocked with at-home Covid-19 test kits before Christmas.
On Dec. 24, people were seen flocking to both locations to purchase the QuickVue at-home test kits available in advance of an anticipated shortage. Both pharmacies quickly sold out of the kits that day.
No kits were available at the stores on Monday or Tuesday this week, and staff posted signs on the doors to let customers know. An employee at the CVS on Main Street said Monday that the pharmacy hadn’t received any test kits in a delivery of products that morning, and she did not know when they would be restocked.
The Walgreens, also sold out, was “expecting more on Wednesday,” according to a store representative. —Ryan Fitzgerald