After being able to recently increase their stock, both CVS and Walgreens have lifted purchase limits on rapid at-home COVID-19 test kits. According to The New York Times, the restrictions have been lifted in their physical stores and online. Back in December 2021, both businesses were forced to put strict purchase limits in place due to the increase in omicron cases. Until this week, customers were only able to buy six tests each, at CVS, and four tests at Walgreens. A Walgreens spokesperson told the Times that it was able to do away with purchase limits due to “improved in-stock conditions.”
In the new year, the country has seen a significant change in the number of test kits available. In response to the nationwide COVID-19 test shortage, the government rolled out its website, COVIDTests.gov, in January 2022. This way, people could order free rapid test kits to be delivered by the United States Postal Service within 7-12 days. The Biden administration announced it planned to purchase one billion test kits to support the 332 million people living in the US, with half this amount available for order on January 19. “Testing is an important tool to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Public health experts and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that Americans use at-home tests if they begin to have symptoms, at least five days after coming in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, or are gathering indoors with a group of people who are at risk of severe disease or unvaccinated,” the announcement read. People have been able to order up to four free test kits for their residential addresses (though there have been some glitches, like people in different apartments in the same building being unable to order tests). The seven-day moving average of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. stood at around 313,000 on February 4, a marked difference from mid-January when there was an average daily number of 756,000 cases.
While there have been many inconsistencies during the pandemic, one thing has been for certain: rapid testing kits have been difficult to come by. The country has faced a consistent lack of tests since the first US cases were reported in January 2020, with drugstore shelves across the nation being cleared out of its home tests, walk-in clinics being unable to keep up with demand, having to leave infected people to wait hours for a test, or to not receive one at all. One of the reasons for the colossal delay in tests being readily available and distributed across the country was due to a protracted approval process when it comes to regulating the tests. Although rapid tests aren’t perfect, they can definitely be useful. So CVS and Walgreens lifting their purchasing limits comes as a welcome bit of a news as the pandemic continues.