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Mid-Michigan stores struggle to keep COVID tests in stock

Some Michiganders are having to travel an hour just to find a place with rapid testing, or at least a place without a line.
Mid-Michigan stores struggle to keep COVID tests in stock
Published: Dec. 22, 2021 at 6:21 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - As coronavirus continues to spread, test kits are needed more than ever.

Dec. 22, 2021: Michigan COVID cases up to 1,448,523 and 26,376 deaths

Sparrow Health System has seen a significant increase in the number of tests they have given out over the last week.

“We averaged 531 in the last six days, the 6 days prior to that we only averaged 470, so we’re seeing 60 more patients a day,” said Elizabeth Ruest, with Sparrow Laboratories.

The scarcity of tests is causing health providers to limit the number of at-home tests people can buy. Pharmacies across Michigan struggle to keep their shelves stocked with at-home COVID tests. With the urgency of holiday testing and omicron spreading fast, many stores just don’t have tests available.

As of Dec. 22, there are 13 confirmed cases of the omicron variant in the state.

Walgreens Pharmacies are now limiting the amount you can buy to just four tests at a time. CVS and Rite-Aid pharmacies also have a limit on the number of at-home tests someone can purchase. Considering the average family in Mid-Michigan is a little more than two people, some families won’t be able to buy tests for their entire family at one time.

The good news is that there could soon be some relief as Michiganders might be able to get their COVID tests delivered in the mail.

President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that the United States had purchased half of a billion free COVID tests to counter omicron.

“The Federal government will purchase one half billion -- that’s not million, billion with a ‘B’ -- additional at home rapid tests with delivery starting in January,” Biden said.

Health experts at Sparrow Health System said the wait times at testing facilities will shorten with the additional tests, but it won’t be fully alleviated by them because there are situations -- such as travel, job or school requirements -- where professional testing will still be required.

Some Michiganders are having to travel an hour just to find a place with rapid testing, or at least a place without a line.

Dan Grady tried to buy an at-home test, but was unable to find any.

“I just had a couple of symptoms that were popping up and I wanted to either rule in the COVID or rule out the COVID before I do anything with the family this weekend,” Grady said.

“When I arrived here, I learned that some people that I had been in contact with last week at a holiday gathering had tested positive for COVID,” Brad Detjen said. “And although my at-home test came back negative, I decided I wanted to get a PCR test to be sure.”

The lines to get PCR tests are still long and, in some cases, people don’t have the time to wait.

“I had heard anywhere from between four and six hours waiting over at Sears,” Grady said. “I’d rather not spend an entire afternoon.”

Detjen and Grady were able to find tests, but they said they feel lucky.

“I probably would’ve gone around to a bunch of pharmacies trying to get more at-home kits,” Detjen said. “Or I might have gone further. I saw some more testing sites in Detroit.”

Detjen and Grady said they prefer getting the professional tests over at-home test.

“It’s not anything bad about the in-home tests, but I’d feel better if I’ve got the time and the ability to let the professionals handle it,” Grady said.

“I think the reality is that we’re going to have a line at Sears,” Ruest said. “There are a certain number of people that want to come and get the highest quality PCR test, which is what we offer at Sparrow.”

If you need a test, you can find a location on the state of Michigan’s coronavirus website. Experts said it’s still best to budget for a few hours for a test in case of longer wait times.

Copyright 2021 WILX. All rights reserved.

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