Rapid coronavirus test kits for the home have been touted as crucial weapons against the super-contagious variant of Omicron that is sweeping the southeast in the days leading up to Christmas.
But good luck finding one in Beaufort County.
A reporter from Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette visited 14 pharmacies and grocery stores on Wednesday looking for the kits.
Between 9 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., the reporter found only five home rapid test kits for sale. Four of them were in a shop called the Walgreens at 2363 Boundary St. in Beaufort.
Prices ranged from $ 24 to $ 39 per kit.
The reporter also found three mailed COVID-19 test kits for sale south of the Broad River. (With these kits, people have to collect their own samples and then send them to a lab to get their results.)
The cost of these mail-in test kits: approximately $ 125 each.
In context, Beaufort County has a population of more than 187,100, according to the US Census Bureau.
The demand for rapid tests has skyrocketed in the past few days as people try to confirm whether they have COVID-19 before attending holidays.
Pharmacy workers across Beaufort County said Wednesday they had no more kits to sell.
A Walmart employee in Bluffton gave this advice, “The best time to check is first thing in the morning.”
The problem is not unique to Beaufort County. CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart, citing the surge in demand across the country, recently limited the number of kits people can buy in their locations or online. (A sign at a CVS in Port Royal on Wednesday warned customers they couldn’t purchase more than four rapid test kits. Walgreens also limited purchases to four kits per customer on Tuesday. And the new Walmart limit is eight kits per online -Order.)
President Joe Biden has now recognized that the country can “do better on home testing.”
âThe federal government will buy half a billion – that’s not a million; Billions with a “B” – additional rapid tests at home, deliveries from January, “said Biden on Tuesday during a speech about his plan to combat the Omicron variant. âWe will make these tests available to the Americans free of charge. And we will have websites where you can have them delivered to your home. “
The President made few details about this initiative. And its promised influx of quick home test kits won’t hit the Lowcountry until after the holidays.
(Rapid test kits are also sold online, including at CVS and Walgreens, but CVS says “deliveries can be delayed,” and Walgreens says the popular BinaxNOW test kit is out of stock.)
How else can people get tested?
The SC Department of Health and Environmental Control has an online map showing COVID-19 test locations in Beaufort and Jasper counties: bit.ly/SCTestingMap
According to the map, some free test clinics in the area will not be open for the next few days.
However, the Beaufort County Health Department will conduct free testing Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 601 Wilmington Street in Beaufort, according to DHEC. The test site will reopen on Monday, the map says.
Beaufort Memorial Hospital recently decided to close its free drive-through test location in Beaufort. The clinic will be closed after Thursday.
A hospital spokeswoman wrote in a statement Tuesday that despite the rapid spread of Omicron in the US, the hospital currently has no plans to reopen the site.
The hospital continues to offer COVID-19 tests to some patients at its Express Care locations, including those with respiratory symptoms, the spokeswoman confirmed.
“The services are billed to the patient’s health insurance or are self-payer,” she wrote.
Search for rapid tests
Here are the pharmacies and grocery stores a reporter visited on Wednesday in search of quick COVID-19 test kits to use at home: