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Rapid antigen COVID-19 testing kits in short supply as demand picks up

The short supply comes as more venues and workplaces across California are requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test.
Credit: BASILICOSTUDIO STOCK - stock.adobe.com
Close up of female health Professional in PPE introducing a nasal swab to a senior female patient at her house. Rapid Antigen Test kit to analyze nasal culture sampling while coronavirus Pandemic.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Rapid antigen COVID-19 test kits are in short supply in California, according to CalMatters.

The tests are popular because they return results in just minutes, whereas the more common polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, tests usually take a few days.

Major retailers are sold out of the at-home tests and medical supply vendors can't find enough kits for schools, shelters and nursing homes.

Some retailers, like Walgreens and Costco, are limiting sales to one per customer. The restrictions come as more venues and workplaces across California are requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test.

For Sonya Frausto of Ten Acres Pharmacy in Land Park, demand is high. 

"Half the day is spent answering phones for patients who want to get COVID testing," Sonya Frausto, the owner of Ten Acres Pharmacy, said.

More and more of the people coming in to see her are now asking for the rapid antigen tests. 

"There is a shortage. We're having a hard time getting the antigen tests, so that makes it more difficult... to be able to provide those rapid antigen tests, which people are looking for and they're the most cost effective," Frausto said.

It's a similar story for the La Familia Maple Neighborhood Center, one of the county's community-based testing clinics which sees around 800 people every Monday. 

"We're trying our best to really allocate those rapid tests to more of our students that are going to school and also our community members who are working (and) trying to get test results to go back to work the next day. So it's been pretty tough," Jerry Vang, the lead resource coordinator at La Familia Counseling Center, said.

Dr. Payal Kohli, ABC10 medical expert, says these testing numbers are growing once again because people are becoming more mobile.

"We're traveling more, we're going to more events, and so because a lot of the things we're doing such as, for example, traveling out of country, sometimes traveling out of state, may require us to have a test when we come back," Kohli said.

She said both tests are used for different situations. The slower PCR test is meant to be a good screening and confirmatory test on whether or not you're actually infected, with or without symptoms. 

But she said, in some cases, the rapid antigen tests are better off used for people actually experiencing symptoms. 

If you are still struggling to find a COVID testing appointment, click HERE for a list of all Sacramento County community-based testing clinics.

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