CLEVELAND (WJW) – As the number of COVID-19 cases continue to rise, so does the demand for free at-home, do-it-yourself testing kits.
In fact, as soon as some places in Northeast Ohio get a shipment, they are gone within hours — sometimes minutes.
The Ohio Department of Health partners with local health departments, public libraries and other organizations to provide testing kits where people can test themselves for COVID-19 at home.
But as the number of cases grow and people prepare to gather for the holidays, those tests are becoming harder to find.
“We gave out 800 over the lunch hour, so we have probably given out a total of about 37,000 test kits, so they are flying off the shelves,” said Summit County Public Health Commissioner Donna Skoda.
Eight hundred free COVID-19 at-home test kits were gone in one hour Friday afternoon. Skoda says people are grabbing them as soon as they are delivered, especially now that we’re in the holiday season.
“They’re worried and they’re trying to do the right thing, and so they’re testing before they go to grandma’s house or before they get together for a Christmas event,” said Skoda.
The health department offers two types of at-home tests, but due to high demand, there’s a limit of two tests per household.
“The one, you actually use an app on your phone or your computer and you call, and then the person will call you back and it’s a medical person, and they will help you go through the test and then you’ll show them the result, and then they report those results to us,” said Skoda.
The other is called an unproctored test.
“You’re allowed to do the test on your own, but in the packaging is like a letter or warning that says you should report those results to your local health department if you are positive. It is an honor system for the unproctored test, but I have to tell you, people are doing the right thing,” Skoda said.
Michelle Francis is executive director of the Ohio Library Council, which represents the state’s 251 public library systems. She says this month alone, they’ve distributed well over 400,000 at-home COVID tests system-wide. She says libraries have handed out a total of more than two million kits.
The director of the Cleveland Heights-University Heights library tells us they have no tests available because when they get a shipment from the state, they are gone in a day or two.
In Northeast Ohio, they are not alone.
“The Mentor Public Library over in Lake County, I believe they received over 1,100 tests in their shipment on Wednesday afternoon and they were gone by Thursday morning at 11 a.m.,” Francis said.
“We’re happy people are taking them, we’re happy people are using them and we encourage everyone to test and be safe,” said Skoda.
Not all libraries or health departments offer the free at-home test kits, so it’s a good idea to call ahead. Even if they do, they could be out of them.
FOX 8 reached out to the major pharmacies to see if they’re having the same problem keeping the at-home kits on the shelves.
Giant Eagle responded with the following statement:
“Our Giant Eagle and Market District stores sell at-home COVID-19 tests as part of our overall COVID safety and wellness offering. We have seen an increase in COVID-19 test purchases as we approach Christmas, but our in-store product availability remains strong. We encourage all to do what they can to promote a safe and enjoyable holiday season.”
We have not yet heard back from any others.
The kits range from around $10 to more than $100.
Taking a look at a few websites, some pharmacies have notices that, due to high demand, there could be a delay in getting a test kit.