By Jim Geraghty, National Review
Your family is coming over for Christmas in a few days, you’d prefer to have a few Covid-19 tests done to make sure nobody’s walking around asymptomatic . . . and in most of the U.S., you’re screwed because no one can find any tests.
Welcome to the pandemic mess of the 2021 holidays, brought to you by a tone-deaf, oblivious administration and a federal bureaucracy that is still dragging its feet in approving tests, even more than two years into this pandemic.
This week, tens of millions of Americans are preparing to visit relatives for the Christmas holiday. With 496 million Covid-vaccination shots administered so far and roughly 52 million Americans having been infected and having some degree of natural immunity, we’re much more protected against the virus than we were at this time last year.
But as families gather, Grandma and Grandpa are getting up there in years, maybe Aunt Edna had cancer treatments earlier this year, maybe Uncle Louie is immunocompromised, and all around the dinner table, family members live with various comorbidities. So while a run-in with Covid-19 probably wouldn’t be fatal at this point . . . lots of Americans have good reasons to avoid encountering it or minimizing exposure to an infected person if they can.
Having a lot of fast, easy-to-use Covid-19 tests around right now sure would make things easier and put a lot of minds at ease. Forewarned is forearmed. In fact, the CDC specifically recommends: “Testing can give you information about your risk of spreading COVID-19. Consider using a self-test before joining indoor gatherings with others who are not in your household.” Last Friday, CDC director Rochelle Walensky urged, “For that extra reassurance as we have more disease in this country right now, do a test and make sure that you’re negative before you mix and gather in different households.”
But in large swaths of the country, if you’ve tried to find a Covid-19 test at your local drugstore in the past few weeks, you’ve been out of luck. The Biden administration spent the past weeks urging Americans to take Covid-19 tests, without bothering to check to see if regions had adequate supplies of those tests.
The Philadelphia Department of Health is giving out free at-home test kits at nine pop-up clinics throughout the city this week, with a goal of handing out 24,000 before Christmas. Hundreds of people stood in line outside libraries and recreation centers Monday for the kits, which each contain two COVID tests, and supplies quickly ran out, leaving dozens standing out in the cold, empty-handed. City officials encouraged anyone who had waited for a test without getting one Monday to try again another day this week.
Finding a rapid, at-home COVID-19 test has become nearly impossible in the DMV [District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. Regionally, the sought-after test kits have sold out, leaving store shelves empty, but that hasn’t dampened demand. The shortage is hitting both small neighborhood pharmacies and national chains alike. As appointments for testing have filled up, many people have tried to turn to rapid tests at home to test themselves.
Columbus, Ohio: “Columbus Public Health announced Monday that it won’t be able to receive another shipment of free COVID-19 tests from the Ohio Department of Health until January.”
And trying to get a test at the “minute clinic” at your local drugstore probably won’t work either, according to the Wall Street Journal: “Websites for CVS and Walgreens showed some parts of the country with no available testing appointments until later next week or more than a week out. CVS said people might need to wait a couple of days to get a test appointment in places where demand is high. A Walgreens spokeswoman said availability varies by region.”
As noted, this is technically Year Three of this pandemic. This administration keeps telling us how focused it is on resolving the pandemic, but then keeps getting blindsided by new problems. (As Kamala Harris put it, “We didn’t see Delta coming. I think most scientists did not — upon whose advice and direction we have relied — didn’t see Delta coming. We didn’t see Omicron coming.”)
This mess was entirely predictable. In early September, the CDC sent out an official notice warning that, “There is currently a temporary shortage in point-of-care and over-the-counter test supplies. To help preserve rapid test kits and supplies and meet the current test demand, CDC recommends the use of laboratory-based testing whenever possible.” A few days later, the New York Times’ David Leonhardt wrote about the shortage of test supplies. In October, Reuters wrote about the shortage of test supplies. In November, ProPublica wrote about the shortage of test supplies. Do you notice a pattern here?
Read more at National Review.