Rapid test shortage prompts new concerns for controlling COVID-19 spread


Posted: Sep 21, 2021 / 10:51 PM CDT / Updated: Sep 21, 2021 / 10:51 PM CDT

FILE – This Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021 file photo shows a BinaxNOW rapid COVID-19 test made by Abbott Laboratories, in Tacoma, Wash. On Wednesday, March 31, 2021, the FDA said Abbott’s BinaxNow and Quidel’s QuickVue tests can now be sold without a prescription for consumers to test themselves repeatedly at home. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

TOPEKA (KSNT) – President Biden is betting on millions more rapid, at-home tests to help curb the latest deadly wave of COVID-19. But, tests have been flying off shelves recently, and have become harder to find.

Most of the state-run testing sites don’t appear to be offering rapid tests. Some community partners and other health providers that are offering tests in the state, like MedExpress Urgent Care in Topeka, said they’ve seen an uptick in demand.

“We are still seeing an increased demand for services in many of our centers, including our Kansas locations. A larger than usual number of patients are coming in for COVID-19 testing, many of which are seeking testing for travel, to return to work or school, and to participate in sports and recreation activities. We’re seeing a mix of ages and patients coming in to our centers.”

Spokesperson, MedExpress Urgent Care Topeka

MedExpress offers coronavirus rapid antigen and PCR, or polymerase chain reaction, tests – both of which require nasal swabs. Rapid antigen tests can let patients know within minutes if they’ve been infected. The spokesperson for MedExpress said the results are typically provided during the patient’s visit. However, PCR tests take about 2-3 days to receive results, while the tests are sent out to a lab.

Despite the longer timeframe to get results, PCR tests have become more prevalent in testing, as many health leaders have referred to them as the “gold standard,” or most accurate test. However, others have pointed to the need for more rapid tests to curb outbreaks at work, school, or local communities.

Some school districts in the state, like Wichita Public Schools, have seen an increased need for rapid testing, as some schools struggle with a spike in cases.

According to the Associated Press, the U.S. has been far more cautious about embracing rapid, at-home testing technology compared to countries like Britain that have rolled it out widely.

However, in President Biden’s speech earlier this month announcing new vaccine mandates, he also said the government would purchase 280 million rapid antigen tests, as he also called on all schools to set up regular testing programs. Biden said the federal government will use the Defense Production Act to ensure manufacturers have the raw materials they need to make tests.

In the meantime, Kansas health leaders, like Deputy State Health Officer, Dr. Joan Duwve said the state is working with local partners to expand access to coronavirus tests and vaccines.

“We’ve really made an effort to increase the testing, the opportunity to get tested across the state, and once we launched vaccine in the state, we’ve done the same thing to really increase access to communities.”


Donovan Larsen

Donovan is a columnist and associate editor at the Dark News. He has written on everything from the politics to diversity issues in the workplace.

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