This COVID Essential Is Disappearing From Store Shelves

You may not be able to find this pandemic must-have the next time you go shopping.

As the Delta variant has taken hold of the U.S., many people have been arming themselves in preparation for the worst. For some, that means donning masks at all times, while for others, it's once again stocking up on certain pandemic necessities, like toilet paper and bottled water. The latter has made these once omnipresent items disappear from store shelves for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic. And now, another COVID essential is becoming increasingly hard to find. Read to find out what must-have product may be out of stock the next time you go looking for it.

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There is currently a shortage of at-home COVID tests.

Young woman holds a swab and medical tube for the coronavirus / covid19 home test
iStock

If you're looking for at-home COVID tests, you may have a hard time finding them both in stores and online right now. According to an investigation from Newsy, there is a shortage of these tests as a result of the U.S. failing to develop a market for home tests big enough to handle the spike in demand that the Delta variant has brought on.

"Right now with Delta is the first time you actually see any demand for these tests," Sara Citrenbaum, a research specialist at rapidtests.org, told Newsy. "Last year we couldn't convince places for the life of us to actually utilize these tests."

In May, Abbott, the manufacturer of the at-home BinaxNOW tests, had such a surplus of tests due to a lack of demand that the company started to lay off employees and throw away test components that had reportedly expired before getting used, according to Newsy.

Some stores have now limited how many tests customers can buy.

CVS drugstore pharmacy prescriptions pick up counter, Revere Massachusetts USA, January 9, 2019
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CVS has put a purchasing limit on at-home COVID tests, Bloomberg reported on Aug. 26. Customers are now only allowed to purchase four of a certain test in stores and six of each online. The limits apply to both Abbott Laboratories' BinaxNOW test and a test from the startup Ellume, which are the only rapid, over-the-counter (OTC) COVID tests CVS sells.

"COVID-19 home test kits are the top-selling item in our stores," Tara Burke, a CVS spokesperson, told Northampton, Massachusetts' Daily Hampshire Gazette. Another spokesperson told Bloomberg that this restriction was made "in order to serve our customers' OTC testing needs, and due to high demand."

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Test manufacturers say they're working to ramp up production.

Lancaster, Ohio: USA - March 2021 COVID-19 at home test kits
Shutterstock

Shortages of these COVID tests may only be short-lived, however. A spokesperson for Ellume told Bloomberg that it is scaling up production, while an Abbott spokesperson said in an email to CNN on Aug. 27 that they would be ramping up production in the coming weeks to help offset "supply constraints."

"We're seeing unprecedented demand as case rates rise—and we've been scaling up manufacturing since Delta became the dominant strain and new CDC guidance called for a re-prioritization of testing," Abbott spokesperson John Koval wrote to CNN. "Today, there are tens of millions of BinaxNOW tests in various settings and supply chains. We're working with our customers to ensure tests get to where they're most needed and we're ramping back up, as we did last year."

President Biden is also working to increase access to at-home tests.

woman drops swab in a protective plastic tube after nasal swab test to check for virus at home.
iStock

On Sept. 9, President Joe Biden announced a new strategy to end the pandemic that includes a new plan to increase testing. Under this new order, the government will send 25 million free-at-home rapid tests to 1,400 community health centers and hundreds of food banks. The White House is also partnering with big retailers such as Walmart, Amazon, and Kroger to sell at-home, rapid COVID tests at a discount of up to 35 percent for the next three months.

"It will take time for the newly vaccinated to get protection from the virus," the order states. "As we continue to combat COVID-19, testing is a key tool to identify infected individuals and prevent spread to others."

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