Explainer: Why are we in short supply of COVID-19 tests?

A COVID-19 nasal swab test.
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As the omicron variant surges post-holiday season, COVID-19 testing sites are swamped with long lines and COVID-19 home tests sell out at local stores. On Jan. 18, the federal government announced Americans could order four home tests through the postal service, but the move raised questions on access to tests.

Texas is in the crossfire of an intense political battleground for the March primary elections, which includes the candidate for governor.

Democratic candidate Beto O'Rourke tweeted on Jan. 10 in response to a Houston Chronicle reporter's photo of a long line for COVID-19 tests: "If you’re waiting hours in line for a Covid test you can thank Greg Abbott. 76,000 Texans dead, hospitals overwhelmed, highest positivity rate the state has ever seen, yet he refuses to lead and continues to tie the hands of local officials trying to keep more Texans from dying."

The surge fueled by the Omicron variant occurred in January after a season of holiday gatherings, but is Gov. Abbott to blame for a shortage of tests? We took a look on why there isn't the supply to meet the demand for COVID-19 tests in this surge.

Why did O'Rourke blame Abbott?

How COVID-19 test supply works

The Omicron variant has increased transmissibility with many people asymptomatic.

The nation's supply chain challenges also come into play here. Though the supply chain issues that are causing delays across industries are used as political talking points, the causes for the shortages are complex.

We are weeks into this Omicron surge. Why is obtaining tests still a challenge?

How we address the pandemic should not just fall on testing

While testing is critical to slowing the spread of the virus, it isn't our only tool. Preventative measures including wearing masks, minimizing gatherings, and meeting others outdoors also help and can help keep the people around you safe.

Contact Nusaiba Mizan at nmizan@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter at @nusaiblah.

This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Explainer: Why are we in short supply of COVID-19 tests?

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