Local libraries expecting new shipments of free at-home COVID test kits after running out

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CLEVELAND (WJW) – A spike in demand for at-home COVID-19 test kits this holiday season paired with supply chain issues led to several local libraries running out of the take-home test.

“The replenishment of the kits has not been as consistent only because, as we understand it, the production of test kits slowed in the summer and so we’re starting to feel the effects of the availability of the supply right now,” said Hallie Rich, communications and external relations director at the Cuyahoga County Public Library system.

The Ohio Department of Health began supplying the take-home COVID test kits to libraries across the state earlier this year. The library systems then distribute kits to the public free of charge.

“We’ve given out over 8,000 so far. 7,000 of those have come just since the middle of September through now,” said Stephen Wohl, lending manager at the Cleveland Public Library.

Wohl said the library system is in the middle of an unusually long stretch of having no COVID test kits available after running out a week and a half ago.

“It is a delay due to supply chain. I wouldn’t say it’s a shortage because when I talk to the Ohio Department of Health, they do still have tests on hand,” said Wohl.

“Although the testing supply market is still limited nationally, thanks to strategic purchasing and distribution, Ohio has been able to maintain adequate supply of rapid at-home testing kits. At this time, we have sufficient supply of COVID-19 test kits and are replenishing them as quickly as possible upon request,” Alicia Shoults with ODH told FOX 8.

A spokesperson for Abbott, the company manufacturing the BinaxNOW test, sent the following statement:

“Demand for BinaxNOW is strong as the most widely used and studied rapid antigen test in the US, which is why Abbott scaled up manufacturing over the summer and are now making more than 50 million tests per month. We are working closely with our customers – including retailers, schools and universities, employers and state public health officials – to ensure tests get to where they’re needed most.”

Rich said the Cuyahoga County Public Library system expects to receive and distribute a shipment of test kits Wednesday to their more than 20 branches but did not know how many kits would be shipped.

“Leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday, we received a supply of kits, about 500 kits per branch, that we handed out in some locations within hours. In others, it was within days,” said Rich.

The Cleveland Public Library expects 2,500 tests kits to arrive by Friday after an initial request of 4,000 COVID at-home test kits.

“This is currently the longest delay we’ve experienced,” said Wohl. “The calls keep coming in.”

Both library systems report routinely ordering the at-home COVID test kits as needed from ODH and usually quickly receive shipments with no delay. 

“Libraries are all about access to information and during a pandemic we can think of no greater or more urgent information needed than that around COVID,” said Rich. “We’re really pleased to partner with the state to be able to make these tests available and hopefully help slow the spread.”

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