Our 2nd try: Could we easily find COVID home tests at a Staunton, Waynesboro store?

·5 min read

A couple of weeks ago, our own Laura Peters spent an hour and tried to track down at-home COVID testing kits in Staunton and Waynesboro to troubling results.

She struggled to find places that had tests in stock, but she was able to talk to real live human beings at the stores and get her answers.

I decided to retry Laura’s experiment to see how the supply chain has or hasn’t caught up to the demand throughout the Shenandoah Valley, and we were curious as to how retailers had responded to the dramatic rise in demand and widespread shortages.

Since then, at-home COVID-19 testing kits are still in short supply, but there definitely seem to be more locations in the area that have tests. But as stores update their processes to deal with the surge in demand for at-home testing, the path to obtaining information about tests seems to be getting less personal.

More: What Laura found on our first try of a phone blitz to get a COVID home kit

CVS locations seem to have tests in stock, and it’s easier to find out about availability over the phone as well. Other larger chains, like Walmart and Walgreens, say that staff can’t confirm inventory of the tests, and would require someone to physically go to the store to try and find tests.

For stores that are unable to provide answers over the phone, it is likely due to widespread back orders on testing kits, as was mentioned by associates at several pharmacies throughout the region. Cases of kits show up seemingly at random, and they are unable to predict when they’ll come through.

More: USPS is sending out free at-home rapid COVID tests. Here's how to get them.

More: COVID shift: Masks to be optional in Augusta County Schools soon, but not immediately

Here’s what I found when I called around:

11:08 a.m. - CVS – 1310 Churchville Ave., Staunton – Yes, they have tests in stock.

  • Every CVS has the same automated system that seemingly checks their inventory and lets you know if tests are in stock. The results for every CVS on this list are from the feedback of that system.

11:12 a.m. - Walgreens – 501 N. Coalter St., Staunton – Unsure.

  • Your only option for COVID-19 inquiries is a hotline. Even if you want to talk to a person, there is a message that plays saying that staff can’t confirm inventory of COVID-19 tests over the phone.

11:14 a.m. - Kroger – 850 Statler Blvd., Staunton – Unsure. No one answered.

  • When I called this Kroger, I was led through your usual set of phone menus to get to the pharmacy. However, when I was connected to the pharmacy, I was put on hold for around 10 minutes before I called it quits.

11:24 a.m. – CVS - 1302 Barterbrook Road, Staunton - Yes.

11:25 a.m. - Martin’s – 1015 Richmond Ave., Staunton – No.

  • Not only do they not have them in stock, but they don’t know when they will get them in-stock either. They show up sporadically.

11:27 a.m. - Walmart – 1028 Richmond Ave., Staunton - Unsure

  • Much like Walgreens, this Wal-Mart location has a recorded message saying that staff can’t confirm the inventory of COVID-19 testing kits. This message was not played by the other Wal-Mart locations on this list.

11:30 a.m. - Fishersville Family Pharmacy – 16 Gosnell Crossing, Fishersville – Yes.

  • They do have a couple of kits left, but they don’t get them that often. They’ve gotten two boxes recently, but not many. They don’t know when they’ll restock.

11:32 a.m. - CVS – 1235 W. Broad St., Waynesboro – Yes.

11:33 a.m. - CVS – 2823 W. Main St., Waynesboro – Yes.

11:40 a.m. - Fishburne Pharmacy – 436 S Linden Ave., Waynesboro – Yes.

  • They have a case of tests, they’ve sold through one pack and have one left

  • Much like Fishersville, they don’t get them often and it’s been hard to get their hands on them

11:48 a.m. - CVS (in Target) – 811 Town Center Drive, Waynesboro – No.

  • Out of stock in this store, according to the automated message

11:50 a.m. – Kroger – 245 Arch Ave., Waynesboro – No.

  • They always try to order some kits, but they’re on back order.

  • Check on Tuesdays and Thursdays, as that’s when they get their truck.

11:53 a.m. - Walmart – 1211 W. Broad St., Waynesboro – No.

  • No automated message like the Walmart on Richmond

  • I was told they had them in stock by the pharmacy and to call customer service. When I called customer service, I was told they are out of stock.

11:58 a.m. - Walmart – 116 Lucy Lane, Waynesboro – No.

  • No automated message like the Wal-Mart on Richmond.

12:02 p.m. - Martin’s – 437 Tiffany Drive, Waynesboro – No.

  • They have no idea when a restock could be coming. It’s become seemingly random.

And with that, my hour on the clock was up. I felt decently confident about having found multiple places with tests in stock, but I was wary of how often I heard pharmacists and associates tell me about how random it seemed to be when kits would show up.

Another part of me was taken aback by stores that wouldn’t discuss inventory over the phone. In a situation where someone needs to test due to symptoms or exposure, it feels problematic to force individuals to physically be present at the store.

With the federal government set to send out four free tests per valid address in the coming days, there is hope that the at-home testing kit supply chain will find a way to catch up with demand. Most retailers are just as clueless about when tests will consistently available as the rest of us.

The restrictions around getting the free tests means that families and individuals will likely still need to find more at-home testing kits as medical facilities continue to struggle to keep up with surges in cases from COVID-19. While it may be getting easier to obtain tests, demand will likely not go away.

So, can you find a test in the area? Probably, but it’s probably going to take a little more luck and legwork than you were likely hoping for.

When can we expect a consistent supply of testing kits in the area? Not soon enough.

—Akhil Ganesh is the Social Justice Enterprise Reporter at The News Leader. You can contact him at aganesh@newsleader.com and follow him on Twitter @akhildoesthings.

This article originally appeared on Staunton News Leader: COVID at-home testing kits: We tried to find them again in SAW area

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