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COVID: Bay Area Pharmacies Struggle To Keep Rapid Tests In Stock Amid Holidays, Omicron

MILL VALLEY (KPIX 5) – Rapid self-testing kits are harder to come by at Bay Area pharmacies, as people try to gather safely for the holidays.

Stores like CVS and Walgreens are supposed to have kits in stock for sale. But the pharmacy chains is acknowledging the temporary shortage, just as the White House is announcing a new plan to get more of these kits into peoples' hands quickly.

"It's a bit challenging. I've been going around to different pharmacies, now here at CVS, and I can't find any," said Mona Ahamadi, who was seeking a test kit on Tuesday.

On websites, including Amazon, some of the more popular brands like Binax Now are "out of stock." Other brands can be ordered, but customers will have to wait until January for many shipments.

"People are aware of it. People want to get tested and the supply isn't there," said Jay Wyman.

Public health officials in Marin County distributed more than 96,000 kits last week to families with students to self-test before they come back from vacation.

"By the second of January, when we expect people to do those tests on the Sunday before coming back to school on Monday, we're expecting omicron to be the dominant variant in Marin County," said Marin County health officer Dr. Matt Willis.

The department will receive 50,000 tests from the state by Wednesday, and then target lower-income families at food banks and community centers.

"We've had outbreaks in settings where everyone was fully vaccinated. So we can't make an assumption people were not exposed, even if we were doing the right thing. That's just an unfortunate reality of just how contagious this variant is." Willis said.

"The good news is with high vaccination rates the risk for severe illness and death is significantly diminished and right now our hospitals are stable.  There are only four people in the hospital in Marin County," the health officer went on to say.

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden announced at least 500 million kits will be available free starting sometime in January, for anyone who requests them through websites that will be launched next month.

As of Tuesday, CVS said customers are being limited to six test kits. Meanwhile, Walgreens has a limit of four kits.

"I have some other friends who were able to get some last couple of weeks, but I guess I didn't plan as well," said Ahmadi.

"The supply chain, the infrastructure, our testing mechanisms, we are way behind and I think it's starting to show.  People are getting nervous," said Wyman.

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