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COVID: San Mateo Residents Still Struggling to Find At-Home Tests Kits

SAN MATEO (KPIX) - The search for at-home COVID-19 tests sent people from one drugstore to the next on Monday, hoping to get their hands on kits for a variety of reasons.

While tests are becoming available in more places, supplies still remain low.

"My son is home from school and he wanted me to go run and pick up one so this is my third place and they have it," said Angela Roberts outside a Walgreen's. "I went to two different Walgreen's and I went to another CVS and Safeway apparently doesn't have them. This one has them but she's almost sold out."

Other customers said they had access to testing at work, but needed a rapid kit to make sure everyone at home would be safe around each other.

"I have family that's in town, so I just want to make sure," one woman said outside the same Walgreen's store. "We'll definitely be using them as soon as I get home just to make sure. At home, we're wearing masks right now just to be on the safe side. Just because it is spreading a lot more."

The store located on El Camino Real could only take cash on Monday, and customers were willing to find the nearest ATM and come back in order to purchase tests.

Just a few blocks away at a CVS on the same street, signs outside and inside the store explained tests were sold out. Customers shopping for kits said they noticed an improvement overall compared to recent weeks. Some shoppers even got lucky and found a test on their first try by visiting the Walgreen's on El Camino Real.

"I have to go back to work. I'm trying to go back to work. I tested positive and trying to get back," Mitchell Cappa said outside of the same Walgreen's. "Before I had to go to four or five, so I think it's slowing down a little bit. And I think it's because the students have gone back to school. That was the big rush."

San Mateo County Health told KPIX 5 in an email it has received limited supplies of rapid antigen kits from multiple sources including around the state and the federal government. The county is prioritizing people who are at higher risk for exposure including low-income families with young children and residents or staff in congregate settings.

Health officials also said they're working to obtain more tests from different sources.

"We anticipated that there would be a tremendous need, we know that there are still high rates of COVID in our community and we also know that there is a scarcity of at-home antigen tests," said Santa Clara County Deputy Executive Megan Doyle. "Just to see how happy people were this weekend and the positive response and folks really looking for more, it compelled us to get more out there."

Santa Clara County gave out 15,000 free antigen tests over the weekend by handing out up to four kits to people who made an appointment on Friday. The tests were all taken, but the county announced on Monday it would have another 7,650 tests to distribute using the same appointment method. Staff cannot plan beyond January when it comes to releasing more tests.

"The order that we're receiving right now was placed days and days ago so this is still part of that original order," Doyle said of the tests released on Monday.

Local governments and residents are also waiting on the federal program to make tests available for people to order online. Drugstores in San Mateo had signs on Monday saying those tests were not available yet either.

"It's been a runaround. The first day he sent me out to get one I've been running all over the town trying to find one. Finally got one," Roberts said.

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