EL PASO COUNTY — “I have gone to Walgreens, Walmart, called the public health department, and one emergency room. All pharmacies were out of self-testing kits,” wrote a News 5 viewer named Theresa. She is concerned about the spike in COVID-19 numbers and want to be proactive about prevention. She has heard insurance will soon be paying for some home testing. There is also news that the federal government will be making more rapid home tests available. However, right now she is unable to find a test. “Is there a reason why it is impossible to get a home testing kit for COVID in Colorado Springs?”
Stops at several pharmacies proved the home rapid COVID tests are hard to find. Several stores had signs saying over the counter COVID tests are temporarily out of stock. While hard to find right now, there are some locations that still have the tests in stock. A shopper leaving the Walgreen’s on the corner of Nevada Avenue and Fillmore Street said they had been looking for tests and finally found a small number there.
A written response from the Colorado Department of Public Health (CDPHE) said, “There has been significant national demand for rapid over-the-counter tests, and in Colorado, our rapid at home program is our most popular.” An on-line CDPHE program makes rapid home tests available for free. Recently requests have been confirmed, but delivery has been unpredictable. The response from CDPHE said, “We have added an additional supplier to our at-home testing program, which will increase supplies significantly. We are working with Amazon now to start shipping these to Coloradans who have ordered tests.”
Leaders with El Paso County Public health remind that there are plenty of PCR COVID tests available at drive-up community testing locations. "If you're having symptoms, your best bet is to get that PCR testing," said El Paso County Public Health, Emergency Preparedness and Response Manager, Lisa Powell. Results from the PCR test typically come back within 24 to 48 hours.
Powell says the results are also more accurate with the PCR test than the home test. She said home tests can be a good indicator of a “likely” infection, but adds it has been less accurate with the Omicron variant. “You don’t have a lot of confidence this is a true answer,” said Powell. The issue is when a test shows negative. There are people with a negative on their test results who were showing symptoms, got another test, found out they did have COVID, and the first test was incorrect.
Rapid home tests are an important tool in helping people go about their lives while also making an effort to cut-off the spread of COVID. While production ramps-up to keep with demand, the public is encouraged to seek out the other testing options.